I Have Misplaced Entire Languages


I Have Misplaced Entire Languages

Neither this tongue nor that still dwells in my house.
The hole of remembrance constricts, leaving behind only debris.

As a child I mixed three languages in family discourse.

Now only one is comprehensible, and I abuse it daily.

The woman in the blue dress stands alone on the pier, weeping.
A pidgin is a simplified language developed between groups with no

common tongue. Sounds form easily, but meanings struggle.

My father is shipped to Korea without warning.

Some words insert epenthetic consonants to separate vowels. Years
later we arrive in Italy and my mother starts receding.

A fourth language emerges.

This morning I asked, “Ame?” “Yes,” she said, “but just drizzling.”

Some families share no common language and must forge without.
We have used pain, pane and pan without reference to etymology.

Having abandoned the familiar, she chose another, never accepting the loss.

These forms we can’t articulate, these memories we have not traced.

This originally appeared in April 2014 as part of Boston Review‘s National Poetry Month Celebration.


29 thoughts on “I Have Misplaced Entire Languages

  1. This is a nice poem! I can relate though we didn’t move to different countries. I grew up being exposed to Chinese (Fookien and Mandarin), Filipino, English and Waray (a Visayan dialect), the way people talk in our household or around us would be a fusion of these languages in one sentence. Later on, I learned Spanish, Korean, Japanese, and now German.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Code-Meshing and commented:
    Lovely poem to mull over. One of the most striking things about this poem is how it seems so related to a research project of mine, discussing the accumulation of, the piling of, and the displacement of language for immigrants. It seems more like a response actually.

    The beauty of language and its evolution in an individual and cultural level, not in a long term perspective but a short term one.

    Liked by 1 person

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