Originally


We came from our own country in a red room

which fell through the fields, our mother singing

our father’s name to the turn of the wheels.

My brothers cried, one of them bawling, Home,

Home, as the miles rushed back to the city,

the street, the house, the vacant rooms

where we didn’t live any more. I stared

at the eyes of a blind toy, holding its paw.


All childhood is an emigration. Some are slow,

leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue

where no one you know stays. Others are sudden.

Your accent wrong. Corners, which seem familiar,

leading to unimagined pebble-dashed estates, big boys

eating worms and shouting words you don’t understand.

My parents’ anxiety stirred like a loose tooth

in my head. I want our own country, I said.


But then you forget, or don’t recall, or change,

and, seeing your brother swallow a slug, feel only

a skelf of shame. I remember my tongue

shedding its skin like a snake, my voice

in the classroom sounding just like the rest. Do I only think

I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space

and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?

strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.

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