Kids Corner

Image: detail from sketch by Rupi Kaur.


Broken English





I think about the way my father pulled the family out of poverty
without knowing what a vowel was.
And my mother raised 4 children
without being able to construct a perfect sentence in English
A discombobulated couple that landed in the new world
with hopes that left the bitter taste of rejection in their mouth.
No family no friends, just man and wife,
Two university degrees that meant nothing,
one mother tongue that was broken now,
one swollen belly with a baby inside.
A father worried about jobs and rent
coz no matter what this baby was coming.

And they thought to themselves for a split second
was it worth it to put all of our money
into the dream of a country that is swallowing us whole.
And papa looks at his woman's eyes
and sees the loneliness living where the iris was.
Wants to give her a home in a country
that looks at her with the word visitor wrapped around their tongue.
On their wedding day she left an entire village to be his wife
and now she left an entire country to be a warrior.
And when the winter came they had nothing,
but the heat of their own bodies to keep the coldness out.
And like 2 brackets they face one another
to hold the dearest parts of them,
their children close.

They turned a suitcase full of clothes
into a life and regular paychecks
to make sure that children of immigrants
wouldn't hate them for being the children of immigrants
They worked too hard - you can tell by their hands,
their eyes are begging for sleep
but our mouths were begging to be fed
and that is the most artistic thing I have ever seen.
It is poetry to these ears that has never heard
what passion sounds like
and my mouth is full of likes and uhms
when I look at their masterpiece
‘coz there are no words in the English language
that can articulate that kind of beauty.

I can't compact their existence into 26 letters and call it a description
I tried once but the adjectives needed to describe them don't even exist
so I ended up with pages and pages full of words
followed with commas and more words and more comas
only to realize that there are some things in the world
so infinite that they can never use a full stop.

So how dare you mock your mother
when she opens her mouth
and broken English spills out.
Her accent is thick like honey,
hold it with your life,
it's the only thing she has left from home.
Don't stomp on that richness,
instead hang it up on the walls
of museums next to Dali and Van Gogh
Her life is brilliant and tragic.
Kiss the side of her tender cheek.
She already knows what it sounds like
to have an entire nation laugh when she speaks.
She's more than our punctuation and language.
We might be able to take pictures and write stories,
but she made an entire world for herself.

How's that for art

January 1, 2018

Conversation about this article

1: Harbhajan Kaur (Australia), December 31, 2017, 10:38 PM.

Beautiful poem that is so true of the generation that left for greener pastures! We are so blessed and thankful for their sacrifice and bravery!

2: Jagjit Singh (Kotkapura, Punjab ), January 01, 2018, 11:11 AM.

How aptly communicated. Brilliant writing.

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