ATTRITION

JOYCE CHONG

 

“Attrition” was a runner up in the 2016 Birdwhistle Prizes.
 
 
my mother tongue
is marbles
in my mouth,
vernacular bleached out
of mitochondria;
my mother tongue
is trace fragment,
an unspoken secret;
 
it is fracture, it is liminal
attraction and repulsion
stagnated by geography,
by incline and by
six feet of earth.
 
my mother tongue is a slope i stumble to
gain balance on / is a walk on stilts
with metal jaws locked to my ankles-
is digested while i am consumed;
my mother tongue is decomposing
in the sunlight / a snake attempting
to untangle tail from mouth / jaw
too weak to bite, fangs dull
from blotted memory.
 
i try to fit my teeth around the shape,
the sound of anomaly,
the taste of loosened screws
and brass tarnish, but when i
reach, its shape defies memory;
it is rounder, larger, and rewritten
on my teeth.
 
my mother tongue is a ghost i sigh
into life, try to piece its ridges,
smile / show you how i fit
this mother tongue
show you how i wield
these unlearned blades,
as unfamiliar as they are
my own.

 

 

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