Foreign Tongue

August 8, 2016

I come from sugarcane and rice

Gold that never touched the fingertips of my people

Just blessed their skin a honeyed brown

Left their lips sweet and fruitful

So I know my tongue got a power to it

Gives something prolific

Like a stream of a current

The way Kaieteur spreads arms wide to catch me in my dreams

So when I wake

My mouth be humming a melody

Like waterfall

Like life being made new

Over and over

When I speak

It rains like a flood

A quick rushing in air

To tremor the silence

My words be an earthquake

A rupture

A break in all that is set and known

And now there is a shift to new

My words be a miracle

A birth

A gold skin mother who labored with fire in her womb

Felt the burn as I was conceived

Knew something strong was coming

And she let the soulfulness of her words

Pour out into the space around

With her voice she claimed it

With a forced language

One not native to my ancestors

She still took back her voice through a roar

Same roar I hear when I speak

‘Cause our voice merge

Amplified echo

I am my mother’s daughter

Which is to say

I am a queen

Royalty—the women in my blood line be goddess

Know how to speak life and joy into a dead thing

Rattle a body back whole

With comfort of a kiss

Breath be a ray of sun

Lyrics be a horizon—

Grace

My words be a gospel

Miraculous

A clean thing

Tongue deliverance

A blessing through the dark days

So when I speak the language of my mother, and my mother’s mother

And those before who lived through the darkness of a man’s touch

And was too holy

To fall chaos

Know then that I only let my lips

Speak a praise song

Tributes with meaning

Would never speak into dust and tombstone

Nor let man colonize my kingdom with a fist again

Nor let him map my nation with jaw

Stretch wide enough to try to swallow

My full

My hips of struggle and pain

But still sways

Never will cease its rhythm for another   

Like my voice

Never goes mute to allow another to taint it

This body

With my great grandmother’s quick tongue

My grandmother’s laugh lines

Mother’s unwavering speech

Still carries on

The way an empress does 

Croker-Benn is a rising junior majoring in cultural anthropology with a minor in global health. She loves music, dancing, and poetry. She sees her mother, who came to America from Guyana by herself, as her role model.