Body Language II

by Allison Thung

You called it mother tongue,
but it always seemed just
an acquaintance’s slip of the.
Some onerous assignment
to be completed, an A-minus
on a certificate so it needs
never again to be contended
with in practice. If it is native
language, then why does it
feel so distant? If it is first
language, then why does
utterance require translation
of English thoughts? I would
lay claim to it as you have
asked before, but how, when
tenure is tenuous at best?
This is not rejection. This is
resentment sanded down
to regret by time and travel.
Older, I have looked the
diaspora in the eye and
affirmed that I understood
and spoke the language, but
in my words revealed I had
but practicality and pleasantry
to offer, passion and poetry
long abandoned to some
vortex of youthful rebellion
against smug, false figures
of authority, who turned the
language from choice to
chore. Tragicomedy, then,
is inherently contemplating
in a language some have
insisted you hold no title to—
yet all words always rolling
off the—then irresolutely
conveying in one others have
assumed you must entirely
command—yet some words
always just on the tip of the.
Your Mandarin is rather
. Thank you, perhaps
someday it will be better.

Allison Thung is a poet and project manager from Singapore. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in ANMLY, Juniper, Lumiere Review, Brave Voices Magazine, Roi Fainéant Press, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @poetrybyallison or at


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