The business of learning a new language.
Words slip away from you like a skittish bird
But you grasp for them
And try to give them some meaning.
Age four, first day of school,
Not comprehending a sentence your teacher says,
Bitter at Mom and Dad
For giving you the wrong words to say back.
It’s difficult when they tell you,
“It’s time you learn English,”
So you leave what you know
And learn to talk like the others
It all feels a lot easier
Traveling twenty-two hours
To a place of palm trees and rivers,
Of bonfires and jasmine and your grandma’s cooking,
To a lush Eden full of faces that look like your own
Only to find that the faces can no longer understand a word out of your mouth.
When they greet you, “Namaskaram”
And laugh as you try to form your mouth back around the lost syllables
Then turn their noses up at “the whitewashed girl”
And you feel as lonely as you did at four years old.
Realizing that the words of your ancestors,
The words that your parents have claimed as theirs,
And the words you have lost
Are no longer your own.