Mothers became targets.
Hanging on clotheslines, the bibs
of their fed children—countries born
split in two. Their firsts’
first steps aborting
their sisters, brothers. The fresh bread
of the their love language.
Their children the English
tearing their sphincters
in two. They came by boat.
With wings. Forgetting their own mothers’
uterus. They came over and over again,
until it didn’t matter if so-and-so had died.
We were the nicknames escaping
their bellies, the translation for
stay, and, never arrived.
Their husbands, their uncles. We were
their wives. Their illnesses. Their pawpaw seeds.
Only thing that could save them,
the sickle cells that knew better
than to touch. Visible,
only, in their dialect, they spoke to cousins,
wired money. Forgave ancestors
we couldn’t trust. And when they stopped speaking to us
in our birth language, we became new
dictionaries. Became the consonants
of the constitution they studied.
Our first words, forgotten
objects in our home
countries. They were the ones
whose fathers had died.
Without daughters.
In the milt of their language.
In America, we were memories
without accents or consensus.
Lambs that couldn’t be traded
for milk, meal, or honey.
And, oh, how they moaned,
how they starved, sucking their teeth
between King’s English, yelling for us
to stop playing immigrant and go
get naturalized.