Scoundrel Time

Alien Language

Day in, day out,
I go over my vowels,
my back-to-back consonants,
my stress and intonation.

I am at the mercy of an alien language.

I hide under it pieces of a previous life:
the memory of a first kiss in Tehran;
Mom’s chador being my childhood shelter;
her burnt face when keeping us warm on a winter night;
buying naan for the first time at seven—that herculean task;
the sight of my grandmother bending down
at my dad’s gravestone to bathe his carved face
with her arthritic hands, sobbing
as though the young soldier had died
just the other day.

I am a foreigner unlearning
my mother tongue;
my terms of endearment;
the words only I know; and the longings
no language will ever tell.

Boston, January 2018

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