On speaking

But who is the little person who,

with a little voice

changed the world?

 

But who is the

lit-ul

person?

 

But who is the

lee-tu-hl

person?

 

But who is the

lethal

person?

Language does interesting things. Nourbese Phillips reminds me that language is a pushing and pulling of tongues. A struggle in alienation and acceptance. A bringing together of people and a tool of oppression. “Speak English damn it!”

Language as a gathering tool is not new. The pronounciation of words has been used for a long time to tell which one is “us” and which one is “the other.” This ties in to why people who travel, particularly to the US, get accents. It’s born from a need to stop being the other. Another other or the other’s other.

Muuubeeyaaa mono

the words

heavily fall off

my tongue.

 

My tongue

is heavy

as the words fall

out.

 

The words

fall off

my tongue.

I am heavy.

 

I cannot

remember

whose mother

gave me

her tongue.

 

My Kisii is horrible. I know enough of the language to follow a conversation. Enough that listening to people speaking Kisii is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle of ifs and buts. Enough that I speak 3 words and everyone else is impressed. My Swahili is better. I move through that language with an ease.

I still sound different though.

I’m best when I’m speaking English. It is the language whose corners I have practiced turning. It is also a language a lot of people I know struggle with. My language alienates me from my people.

My people.

Already creating a “not my people”

Which, with a little modification can be “not people.”

 

Your surname betrays you

–          Kalonzo Musyoka

 

There is nobody in Kasarani

–          William Ruto

 

Must I cut off my tongue?

–          Sitawa Namwalie

 

There is something symbolic about the tongue. We cling to it as a bodily organ. We assign it much responsibility even if, most times, the real perpetrator is the mind. The idea of the ability to communicate being taken away brings shudders.

Being silenced is scary.

The letter r

is just that.

A letter.

 

It was the wrong time

for it

to be anything more.

 

Yet, under threat,

his r was rebellious

rebellious

re-bel-lious

 

le-ber-rious.

 

Leberrious.

 

The cut

was messy.

There are many things I don’t know how to talk about. There is a scampering that is happening that I do not know how to think about. Lines are being drawn in the sand and feet are itching to step over them.

 John Berger wrote a book on visual art called “ways of seeing.”

I’m wondering about ways of speaking.

There is a struggle in language. A pulling and pushing. A pushing and pulling.

Narorire na amaiso ane…

Aneni gi wang’a…

Nindona na maitho makwa…

Dzaona na matso gangu…

I have seen with my eyes…

Nabone khu kimomoni kyase…

Nali mona na menso yandi….

_Ndaona nemeso angu…

Mein apne aankhon se dekha hoon…

karo ak konyekchuk…

He visto con mis ojos…

Ndakulola ne tsimoni tsiange…

Aneno ki wang’a…

… and it is not pretty

We have exchanged

tongues.

She searched for

meaning on the back

of  the palms

of my poetry.

 

Instead she found

misplaced

line breaks and

lost letters.

Post Note:

I’m collecting languages. You can help me by posting “I have seen with my eyes” in the language you speak in the comments below and I’ll add it to the post.

9 thoughts on On speaking

  1. Being ‘other’ or ‘different’ always provides interesting perspectives and is something to be embraced. I don’t have the average ‘Zimbabwean’ accent because of the schools I went to but also because I have a mix of Ndebele and Shona intonations for certain words, which makes it hard for people to place me. Being Shona and having grown up in a dominantly Ndebele area.

    I’d hate to fit into one or the other because Zimbabwe has enough tribal issues, so I embrace the otherness of the way I speak and sound so that I am above all me before anyone pigeon holes me to a tribe.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Telegrams on Air : Michael

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *