Sunday, August 4, 2013

On language and its acquisition

I wonder often if:
the space I occupy and
the words I speak are
truly my own.

When I speak in a language
Mama cannot comfortably maneuver -
but I am uncomfortable with anything
that isn’t this.
When I am startled,
shocked even,
at how quickly the thoughts
tumble through my mouth.
at the point of pride that
was my prowess with these words
that were never mine-
especially because
they were never mine.

When I think back 
to days of Catholic school classrooms,
where we were told to think
in a language that didn’t belong to us,
to abandon pride in our past,
and that rush of complacency
because I did it without being told,
because I laughed when others could not,
And because, it set me on a pedestal.
It made me better.

I remember
the carefully cultivated sense of shame
nurtured by adolescent cruelty-
my face burning at Mama’s hesitance with
words that came so naturally to me,
my disregard of sacrifices,
of her embarrassment
of my privilege.

And now,
“When did you learn?” they ask.
And often, so often
I am tempted.
I am tempted to ask how,
how they learned to think,
to live,
to say.
And when they answer,
to reply
“Well, I learnt in quite the same way.”

But these words,
They are not mine
And I have no claim over them. 
or, for that matter,
over those that
were meant to be my own.