mother's tongue

By 
Kiran Dhaliwal

mother's tongue

They often ask:
Will you teach your
children your language?
           
            As if it is a weapon I carry.
Of course I will, ensure they are
more fluent than I was. Hope that
they can read and write it too.
           
            Only teaching them english would
be like only giving them white to
paint everything they see. Like only
giving them one way to express
themselves.
 
            English tastes like
empty bullets that were once shot
at us. That are sometimes still
shot at us. I will arm them with
Punjabi because english doesn’t
cut it.
 
            English ends things quickly
cuts it off and out. When someone
dies, in Punjabi, we say they are
complete. That we live in cycles
and the end isn’t empty.
 
            Our endings
are whole and fulfilling. Their
endings are dark and hollow.
 
            I will give my children everything
especially my tongue. 

"mother's tongue" won the Honourable Mention in Room's 2017 Poetry Contest. Judge Jónína Kirton had this to say about "mother's tongue":

The questions asked in this poem left a familiar taste in my mouth. What is lost when “only teaching them English would / be like only giving them white to paint everything they see.” The bitter taste of a language that “tastes like empty bullets.” This poem a promise from mother to child. A sacred promise that the ‘mother’s tongue’ will not be forgotten. 

 

Kiran is a student at UBC completing her Major in English. She was born and raised in Squamish, BC, but currently resides in Vancouver, BC. During her time at Capilano University, she was the editor and online marketing coordinator of The Liar Zine. Kiran’s writing is not only for herself, but also an ode to all the women in her life who have shaped who she is today with their help and guidance. 

For More Poetry, Follow Her On:
Instagram.com/kiranstagram 
Facebook.com/kiranthewriter 

“It's Canadian, feminist, and one of my favourite things ever.”

—bucketofrhymes, "29 Amazing Literary Magazines You Need To Be Reading", Buzzfeed Books

Room relies on subscriptions from readers like you. Help us continue to promote and support diverse women and genderqueer authors and artists by subscribing today.

SUBSCRIBE

Currently on Newsstands

  • Migration Cover
    Room 40.3, Migration
    Edited by Nav Nagra

    In this issue:

    Rasha Abdulhadi, Juliane Okot Bitek, Ariane Both, Aimee Henny Brown, Leonarda Carranza, Rose-Anne Chabot, Karla Comanda, Marita Dachsel, Stacy Gardner, Branwyn Holroyd, Sandeep Johal, Sharon Kirsch, Katherine Koller, Lydia Kwa, Emily McKibbon, Amanda Merpaw, Shelley Marie Motz, Dorothy Nielsen, Rita O’Grady, Kimberly Peterson, Claire Polders, Ramna Safeer, Nilofar Shidmehr, Arielle Spence, Chanda Stallman, Catherine J. Stewart, Florence Treadwell, Sarah Wolfson, Annie Wong

    .