There are many languagues
that don't have words or grammar rules
their thesaurus includes hugs and shrugs
looks that make you shrivel up into an ant
and the ones that inflate your heart
it includes warmth wafting from the kitchen
and hollowness carved from a deliberate absence of words
the languages are plenty .
there is the language of love
apparently there are five
we each have our own dialect
some speak in presents and words
in gestures of love and nuggets of appreciation
while others in sacrifices and hours
in sleep lost and movies watched
there is the language of anger
spoken in measured silences
impregnating the air with rancour
the letters in the alphabet are
banging doors, clanging vessels, stomping feet
sharp looks, loud voices, seething silences
there is the language of friendship
spoken in memes left on whatsapp chats
little pick-me-ups in the day
gurgles, giggles, bellows, snickers
shared stillness, kindness and generosity
are all embroidered on its fabric .
and then there is a the language of poetry
letters from poets, words of advice and observations
chunks of their day, strands of thought
hours of mehnat spent bewitching words to become poems
all pressed onto paper,
like a yellowed frangipani left in a diary or a genie kept in a bottle
as you bring your attention to the page
rub, coax, cajole the words
to rise up
and pour themselves into you
I want to live in a foreign land,
And speak a foreign tongue.
Roll my 'rrrr's in my mouth like tart berries.
Savouring every juicy bite.
I want to trip over the difficult words,
Create crude rhythms that my tongue can dance to.
The unknown words,
Remind me I have a lot left to learn.
All that I think I know,
All that I know I am yet to learn,
And the vast and endless abyss of everything I don't even know
I don't know.
What if tomorrow,
When the world is ending,
The words simply disappear from my mind?
And I forget how to say 'I love you'
Or there are no words to be able to describe how I feel?
Then I'll pore over the dictionary,
And master the language of silence.
I love you over and over.
-Charu Mittal (Watch/listen to her reciting the poem in the link)
this poem is not for bengalis
living in assam. neither for lower class daily wage muslim workers
or butchers who don't close their shops
even on bihu.
nor for the bodo, the mising, the ahom,
about whom nothing is taught about
in our history classes,
whose identity is limited to a state holiday-
we know school remains closed
on ali ai ligang
but don't know what it is.
this poem is not for any culture
if it's not my own,
not for any language
that's not spoken in my home,
not for the seats in our classroom
reserved for "other backward classes"
that mostly remain empty.
this poem is for the cape
of cultural supremacy that local media
has taught me to wear;
my koka rode his bicycle
across three villages
to teach poor nepali kids
and I don't even know what my nepali friends
eat for dinner.
so this poem is to say,
for taking up too much space
in a land that's not just mine,
for dropping racist bombshells
in the name of humour,
and calling them fire crackers,
for watching videos of people
throwing stones at your houses
and simply skipping to the next channel.
this poem is not for any of you,
it's for me,
a finifugal person who's ashamed
to even offer you her poetry.
koka-Assamese for grandfather
When I immigrated from India,
I had to feel on my own skin
the meaning of losing a language,
before it I never paid attention to
what was the meaning of being
lost in translation.
When I came here I felt like
I was sentenced to live in hell for following
footsteps of my father and, also,
to the incommunicability:
I could talk only to my family,
but I was so sad for leaving my world behind
that I let go that possibility, too.
When I went to my new school,
hoping to make new friends
but I was condemned to silence
because I had no language to speak in,
I was bullied for it and I had no words
to defend me from the bullies.
When my teacher noticed me being
isolated, humiliated and
sitting alone, there, on the last bench
she came and said to me:
‘If you do not want to feel like an
outsider, read as much as you can and
it is the only way to learn the language
and make some new friends!’
When I started reading, I made a
new friend and her name was ‘Literature’.
I would carry a book with me everywhere
I would go and read them everywhere:
at the library, in the kitchen, in the bathroom
and even under the bench!
Nothing changed outside,
I was still isolated, humiliated
and an outsider, but everything changed
inside suddenly I felt important, empowered
and new like breeze of fresh air!
This was the magic of language,
a language can kill and make you fly.
The irony is that I fell for languages,
words that used to hurt me
now put balm on my wounds,
each of language, I know, play a role my life:
my mother tongue helps me contemplate,
italian helps me to read,
english helps me to write.