A Tongue Borrowed From Lucifer by Rhea Brown-Bright Oklahoma Youth Poet Laureate

I remember our first conversation
about how my tongue can’t carry
the heavy words of the family member before me.

I am trying to learn the language that
generations of my family have used,
rolling the Rrrr’s with ease.

And though my bones are made of your suffering
(knees and painful joints),
my tongue is American.

I’ve realized
my tongue can’t speak a language
that I have only just begun to breathe.

Each time I inhale,
English goes in my nose and
this language, too, has tried to suffocate me.

It’s the reason I had to go into speech therapy at age five
and say mow lawner-
mow lawn-
lawn… mower…

And I am trying to carefully roll my r’s
while saying the words your tongue has known since birth
but mine has only started to accept.

Sometimes I wonder
if I even want to use the words of those before us,
because our family’s tongue is full of lies.

Years of ancestry lost out of shame,
and I wish I knew what was more shameful
than our involvement with la Mafia.

Though this family comes from a line of good Catholics,
I am afraid our tongue came from Lucifer,
whispering soft lies in the ears of those around us,
Telling them we are of god and not the devil.

Someone told me
they didn’t believe I had a lying bone
and they were right.

I have a lying muscle
(and it lies) in my mouth
and it can’t roll r’s like my family before me.

(How am I to pass on lies
to those who will follow
if I can’t speak the tongue that taught them?)

Our native tongue scares me–
what lies do you hide from those
who never knew the language behind it?

The truth and lies are so blurred together
that none of us can tell the difference anymore.
Each of us pass down the lies to the next generation without a blink.

So when my tongue can barely carry
the new words that my mouth has learned,
forgive me if I struggle.

I am just afraid this tool
that helps me speak
will become another tongue borrowed from Lucifer.

Sofia Snow