A Letter From My "Second Language" to Your "First"

Dear first language,

I have written to you today to announce a list of grievances you have committed against me

My Constitution, My Bill of Rights, my haughty Declaration.

1) Devaluing me

I came to you, the proud product of generations

I am the jewel hanging on grandmother's neck, her antique silverware, her fine china,

her dowry.

I am mother's pierced tongue, her Hindu third eye, her Spanish superstition, her Muslim devotion.

I am father's fruit-picker back, I am his machismo, his inner matador,

I am his first born

and his last.

I am gold and platinum, and silver and copper.

I am a thousand splendid suns, a million coursing rivers.

I am an empire built and remade. I am Monarch, and Chief.

I am Pagan and Heathen.

I am prostrate and Protestant.

I am who I am

And yet.

And yet, you devalue me, convert me to your USD

a fraction of a fraction of what I am, what I have been, what I could be.

I have never been cheated so harshly, by the medicine man, by the spiritualista, by the coyotes

by the conquistadors, by the plantation owner.

Whose villainy was rooted in the fear of me - for I was feared and fearsome.

I was a beast of no nation. I was as transcendental as the air I occupy.

I was survival when there was none.

I am forced to be small when I represent infinity.

From when my ancestors first opened their mouths and my honeyed nectar dripped out.

magnificently sparse tinkling’s, little murmurs in the vastness of nothing

to the blessed bare-backed drumming of sweat and toil, to their sweet work songs.

I proclaimed it my own gospel.

2) Assimilating me.

I have been handed, mano to mano, tongue to tongue.

They Take their babies and press the innocence of their hand to the curve of my cheek

to the whisper of my palate, to the balanced arch of my firm jaw.

Teach me the angel and the devil of myself. the compliment and the critique.

The manners of my please, and the insolence of my que.

The fire of my Hijo de la chingada madre

to the silk of my amor.

My babies

and I'm a proud mother. I'm a favored uncle. I'm a delighted father.

My little infinities. My endless wonders.

I am the shawl of remembrance they wrap themselves up in. They and I. I and them.

and yet. And yet and yet.

and yet they lock me in their pencil cases at school

and only take me out for show and tell.

dije: "si mama" cuando en la casa, pero en la calle - I cease to exist.

I am appropriate at family functions but they leave me at the door for an interview

My babies amputate me - cut off my tongue with scissors labeled:

"You’re in America, speak English"

My sons pull their Incan hair,

Clothe their noble bodies in the trimmings of passing while ignoring what has past.

My daughters pull me from their wombs, purge me from their bodies.

Stripping me from the curve of their hips leaving a barren plateau,

Flatten me from the succulent tendrils of their inky waves

Try to lighten my mark on their perfect form.

3). Rejecting me

I have crossed deserts as vast as the day is long.

I have seen sand with no horizon - my sacred tongue cracking in the heat.

I have crossed oceans, tucked myself into the crevices of the wood

hoping that - If my body drowns, at least my whispers will live on

In photos

In photos of my vessel,

My vessel, my KiyiyaVuranInsanlik

My vessel, my body

My vessel, the car turned boat,

My vessel, sea garbage turned raft

In a photo where my vessel is less my immortal and more my mortality

Where my whispers won't be whispers at all

But my body at the bottom of the ocean,

Rotting in the sea bed,

Will open its bloated lips

And scream: I wanted to live.

4) Leaving me homeless.

I am at the end of the age of godliness. of my own self.

I am fading from the pages of a history that denies my existence.

I have watched my children leave me to drown, to die in terror, to be victim

I see their decision and respect their choice.

I am Job, and Hercules, I am The Christian god.

I am asked to murder or to be slain.

sacred body sacred tongue - mortal life exchanged for my immortality

My sustenance or their rejection

My sacrifice - their success.

I wander the lonely realm of the kingdom of the these United States, the domain of race

Defined by the lack, be the minus thus, by the less than

The plumage of my exoticism worn bare, the succulent appeal of my mystic ritual

The depth of my baritone heritage, castaway.

I am homeless in the utter fullness of that nothingness.

Dear "first language",

These are grievances I name against you. Each a personal account of the rape of my sacredness.

The disrespect suffered at your white-gloved hands.

My children have left, my infinity limited to the borders of body and nation,

My vessel lays defiled, my tongue amputated. And yet, and yet

and yet I survive.

This poem is about: 
Our world


Additional Resources

Get AI Feedback on your poem

Interested in feedback on your poem? Try our AI Feedback tool.


If You Need Support

If you ever need help or support, we trust CrisisTextline.org for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741