Mother tongue

I have no other tongue but this one.
No rising intonation singing a tropical song
Then turning in a flash to lash.
No deep belly switching of codes
No knowing eruptions.

It’s root was severed
like Beloved’s head.

Slashed.

In my babe’s mouth tears fell as blood
and my tongue
swung
low.

I grew a phantom.
Pink and white it blossomed.
Hungry for all the crannies and crevices.
It sought out walls and confines.
Found it could move and throw words out into the world.
Singular and wide
my tongue held onto English sounds.
Comforting and complete
not fragmented and impenetrable.
We adopted each other in the ether
while mother and father
tongues turned away.
Each to their own
leaving me an orphan.

My heart dances to soukous
but moves deaf to Swahili.
Shona is only a thundering vibration.
I still speak with a timbre.
My voice still finds it’s way home.
But my once new sprung tongue
is of this isle
And when it lashes, thrashes and loops
It is unashamed.
My tongue is mine own
And I claim it fiercely.

Inspired by ‘Epilogue’, Grace Nichols, The Fat Black Woman’s Poems, 1984

Beloved ref to Toni Morrison novel of the same name.
*Shona is spoken by Zimbabweans
*Swahili is spoken by Kenyans. It is also spoken in other East African countries.

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