MOTHER’S TONGUE By Lan Rey Hassan
I was born on one side of an ocean
unlinking two continents
and raised on the other side.
So excuse me if you do not know why
a boy glimpses his skin color; the crude
black of nude charcoal -and sighs.
Why his head droops ashamedly
each time his mother speaks;
Her English a fused alloy of the
English he learns in school, blended
with her mother tongue.
Education is the most potent potion
to kill complexes, but in
school is where I learnt symptoms;
that sunset is to nightfall as chill is to fever,
and I would see a burst of colors against
a darkening sky, the Sun sliding below the
horizon, the moon rising and lowering a
curtain of stars, Night spreading into
an endless field.
So, try to understand that when Mother
(after ordering me to not stay out till night)
said night had fallen, and asked me to
come in at Sunset, -I didn’t answer.
I believed that because she expressed
them imperfectly, her thoughts were
I was fifteen when I heard
Mother say she spoke her best English
(laced with a tone of her aboriginal accent)
at the hospital, yet,
no one apologized when they said
they had lost the scan result she came for.
I now wince when people say my
mother’s English is broken,
-like a mirror smashed into shards-
justifying how salesmen serve others
before her; busy piecing together
her English as if it lacked a certain wholeness.
My mother’s is a language
brimmed with images; of home, of a father
whose last prayer for her daughter is
to never forget home.
The language that
shaped how I made sense of the
world as a sea that overflows its banks
before we’re done Sun-bathing, how I
knew that the only gospel worth
spreading to a homeboy is: ‘Run’.
That English can not be broken, it is
the language of my mother’s tongue
and I wish someone else would respect
Lan Rey Hassan @ Knowislam.com.ng
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