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.