#Immigration: Mother Tongue by Tricia Knoll

mother tongue tricia knoll photo byJoeLeMerou

He told me he speaks Eritrean,
my cab driver, as he gives advice
by cell to his new roommate,
arrived, in despair of finding work.

I hear a thick, slick muscle wad
clicking of a glick sound,
the phantom of a Spanish vowel roll,
some impatience and much caution.

Raindrops on my side window fork
like sycamore branches at the quarry,
my through-vision to a rundown
neighborhood of convenience stores and bars.

My father wanted me to learn
French, maybe Latin. Not German.
His parents fled the Prussian draft.
Learn, he said, a language without his shame

of run-together hooligans of a history,
thugs and ash. My memory twists
on words I overheard living with him
like wringing out sopping towels,

pinning them up to dry, the return
to utility a matter of dry time.
The driver listens to his cousin. We merge
onto a clogged freeway. He taps the wheel.

Some family words I’ve lost, a database
named forgotten. The tires
plash a puddle. My tongue pushes
my top front teeth.

My open mouth accepts tears
that branch like drizzle on this window.
There is a funeral
at the end of this.



Tricia Knoll is a poet just learning how to live in Vermont after moving from Oregon in June. Her poetry appears widely in journals and anthologies and has received 7 Pushcart nominations. Her most recent collection is How I Learned To Be White (Antrim House, 2018) Website: triciaknoll.com


Photograph by Joe LeMerou.

One thought on “#Immigration: Mother Tongue by Tricia Knoll

  1. I so enjoyed your poem, being an immigrant myself and speaking various languages. Great images and deep feelings that spoke to me. Thank you. Evie Groch


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