Why My Mother Tongue Will Have No Daughters Speak? – Hardeep Kaur

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Illustration by Sukanya Roy

If they ask me why I don’t write in my mother tongue.

I won’t know what to tell them. Or how

My mother’s tongue is foreign

To me; I could never learn

All its words or understand what some of them mean.

How will I tell them I accept enough words in

My mother tongue to make a poem rhyme for

I couldn’t learn its derision for difference.

How will I tell them that my mother tongue covers and shields;

Parts of me that I can’t bother to hide; Parts, I

Tore apart and flung aside

Years ago. I learnt loneliness

Like one learns a foreign tongue

In a foreign land. Forcefully.

With-out choice, struggling

To come to terms with it,

Playing games with one’s self, practicing

The art of hiding fear

Of ridicule until

Silence became a person who held

Both my hands and turned me into a secret.

How will I tell them that the gasps

In my mother tongue are not consent, coyness or even defeat,

But a pause.

Because I don’t believe in the words out of my mouth.

How will I tell them that my mother

Tongue does not allow mothers

To be angry, and

When my mother is angry, she mumbles:

In unheard of languages.

How will I tell them that my mother’s tongue is cut from her mouth and stored

Under the heel of fathers and forefathers.

First hers, then mine.

They speak gratuitously for the universal kind of mothers dutifully

Shutting them up in cages exacting servitude

In the name of sacrifice.

How will I tell them that my mother’s tongue is often cut from my mother’s mouth until

All you can hear are her screams.

And when my mother is angry, she mumbles:

Synonyms and verb forms of dying.

So, all I know, about speaking in her tongue

Sounds like blood and tastes like defeat.

How do I tell them that I’d be deaf and dumb,

Yet only scream, if I spoke in my mother tongue.

Hardeep Kaur is a poet who tells stories that, sometimes, rhyme. She loves languages and believes that cussing in a language is the only way to own it.