We were that raghead family
Catching rainfall in a still.
The old famines had us spooked,
Thirst-myths passed on to us sons
By our drunk, teary father,
Smack of rock still on his tongue.
Once he had to bite his tongue,
He told us, so his family
Could drink of him. His father
Didn’t have to ask. But still,
He said, you boys are good sons.
Just do my will. And don’t speak.
We didn’t. Nobody spoke
To us, either, though our tongues
Could parrot, palate the sounds.
Yes. Yes, that was my family,
Awed by leavened bread, turnstiles,
Drinking fountains; my father,
Screaming Respect your father
In public; me, who did not speak.
Come dawn we poured out the stills
And prayed in a stranger’s tongue
For the health of our family
And the rising of the sun.
Can I be my father’s son
Without being my father?
Or am I unfamiliar
Because of the way I speak?
This foreign, farangi tongue
That borrowed some words and stole
The rest, imperial style.
I want to be a good son,
But without biting my tongue.
I’m thinking of my father.
It feels like treason to speak
Publicly of my family
But is it still a family
When the son cannot speak
The mother tongue of the father?