My mother’s tongue is knowledge for my mind,
A love letter to my heart
And poetry to my soul
A syllable in my mother’s tongue could make
Shakespearean verses seem so ordinary
My mother’s tongue was a lullaby
That made me dream until dawn.
It raised me until the age of three
And I nurtured it like a tree
Until my mother introduced me to
My colonizer’s tongue.
It sounded strange and threatening
But mother said it would take me places I could not even imagine
So my mother-tongue didn’t put me to sleep anymore
I learned to water francais and it grew as tall as a sycamore
I fell in love with its words d’amour
Until I claimed it as my main tongue with all of its allure
I allowed my first tree to wither away
Oh so carelessly
With it a relationship with my grand-mother.
Were it completely dead I’d feel no shame in letting go
But those roots remain:
My mother-tongue still knocks on the walls of mind
My heart still longs for the sweetness of a syllable
But remains bitter because my tongue cannot utter a word
— To know that it is there but that I can’t reach it,
To know that there was a time when it was all I knew
That I am standing at the threshold, never to get through
Makes me rue my colonizer’s tongue

But still I’ll say with gratefulness
To all the languages I met on this journey

Ndi Mukunange (I love you)

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