Mother Tongue

by Gerda Krivaite | September 2, 2019

flight after flight after flight
my tongue becomes adjusted
to the different cultures: taste,
language, kisses; but it mistrusts
me the third time I leave home.

“What is your mother tongue?”
mine earnestly protests. pulled in one,
two, three directions,
it seems to cry: I have none.
an orphaned tongue.

the red bricked towers of one city sigh:
“I am your motherland.”
while the cathedral’s candlelight at dusk
glows, infused with a nostalgic trace.
I promise, I belong to this enchanted space.

but despite my name echoing theirs
and my cobalt eyes mirroring theirs
it’s the accent that betrays me;
my mouth begins to ache.
“I see. My mistake.”

and yet, the other town (a playground
from my youth) is so fascinated with walls
and beguiled by borders, reminding me that
this isn’t my sanctuary. I speak effortlessly
yet am labelled

still, the undulating blue
engulfs my doubts.
“Honey child, I beg of you”;
the outlines of the blue ridge mountains
seem to spell out home.
and so I bloom.

dear mother tongues, I savour your tastes
in my mouth. the infinite textures; centuries
of handwritten secrets, poetry, adventures.
blossoming history on the branches of
an ash tree.
atleisk man.
how I hope you will forgive me. ∎

Words by Gerda Krivaite. Artwork by Sophie Kuang