To An Echo

There is a language of two arms dancing in tandem. There is a language 
of our mouths parting in frostbitten rings, concentric circles rippling 

peace. There is a language of peace and a language of romance. You can 
speak neither or both and a language is only understandable to some, else 

the world might hear. There is a language of the sweat off our backs 
dripping in trails, entrails of insides strewn across floors, because we speak 

in the pain. There is a language for me, not really for you, a language I listen to 
when it speaks back to me. For you’ve never straddled the cosmic belt 

between a language to speak and one to hear, a language through which 
I’ve lost centuries. My mother says she pities me in the motherland 

because they wouldn’t take me as their own: I belong not to the mother tongue 
but to the spangled banners. There is a language noisy sounding, brawling, 

reminiscent of German that is the language I have learned like a roughened 
lover. I’ve brushed with my thumbs where his hips slope to thigh, and the 

nook between jaw and collar. He slammed my head against the wall 
and embraced me in a lock and key I knew I might never fit again (The 

Germans have a word   dasein   for the paradox of   being   like my mere 
state a pull between two hands that stretch). She says they wouldn’t 

take me as their own and neither would the Americans. The children of 
immigrants rise a new tsunami and these children know the feeling of 

swallowing a tide of shame at their mothers’ broken English. These 
children know to act the reluctant mediator, because when a mother 

speaks broken English and the child knows it like a lover the mother 
becomes fragments and child becomes same, like switching 

bodies except both are devoid of crucial parts like vessels without 
blood and brain. These children want to hear the pin-drop 

in a cave that roars stillness to hear the echo of an echo. To look 
around, unmoving, in a city swarm, to seize a semblance of knowing, to

say I belong here, with you, with you all, not anywhere else, here, 
where any link that snaps homogeneity is an outsider, and I am not. To say, 

I belong here, is a travesty. To the shade of your skin or the slant of my 
eyes. I wonder what it would be like to write a poem such as this, a long 

and lengthy poem, of curious words and stacked phrases, a poem of worlds 
and small rivers, to show it to my mother to know she can understand every word 

and nothing less. I wouldn’t know. Not in this lifetime. Maybe in another, 
we’ll dismantle the walls that encircle us. There is a language of demolition, too.

The Riddler

I’d kill to unlearn the human body for all its 

tempestuous riddles, to abandon the space 

 

behind one’s ear and the close proximity 

of the tilt of a mouth towards another in a line of tongue 

 

like a curving question mark. You can ask and ponder

but the heart never answers straight. To kiss 

 

three precise points along the femur where if shattered, 

the victim no longer walks. Some keep walking, 

 

even though it’s physically impossible

through the heart’s riddles. It told me, it asked,

 

What belongs to you, that other people use more? 

Your name. Good one. Say mine back.

Yejin Suh is a student from New Jersey whose work appears or is forthcoming in Prometheus Dreaming, Polyphony Lit, and Half Mystic. She is an editor for Polyphony Lit and an upcoming writer for Her Culture. She likes rainy days and watching Graham Norton.

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