Poetry: On Losing My Mother Tongue By Theresa Lola

This piece was initially published on Cadaverine Magazine.

Each time an aunty at a party asks me ba wo ni?
The real answer is a lodge in my throat.
I reply the way I know how; I am good aunty.

Days like this I shrink into a cage of shame.
Maybe it’s partly to do with my father, I was hesitant
to learn the language he wanted to speak to me in.

Whenever I return home my grandmother asks
if I still wear her aso-oke on my tongue.
She examines my mouth to see if it’s been sliced off

With an English sword. I smile, I tell her I understand
Yoruba but I can’t speak it without stuttering over silence.
As if my silence was something to be proud of.

Source: Theresa Lola via Cadaverine Magazine.

Image: Eliot Elisofon, ca 1970.