Back home is more back than home to me.
As a child I was called in from playing and
asked to shout into a phone
so my voice could wrap itself
around the world several times
to reach a relative’s ear.
My parents took me back, although
I perfected tantrums and groans –
see, refusal came easily to me, even then,
when I was too small to hold and look
at what it was that I refused.
Summer months were spent in a dust-walled home
at a grandmother’s pace, my head lowered
into books so she never saw my face.
I dragged a suitcase of stories
that still failed to erase
the stretch of time between me
and my return to the place
that had malls and bikes for girls
and reliable internet.
The place where I could wear jeans that were not
too tight but were too tight to wear
Only there, silence filled my mouth
like dry fuzz in the heat. I walked
with a thick English accent and heavy
English books clutched to my chest for relief
from the sing-song calls to prayer and the parades
of obligation, the parades of tea,
the procession of judging guests that snapped tongues
and clanged pots, singing songs
of gossip music, turning my strangeness into
tunes that were quickly picked up
and sung in chorus
by the entire neighbourhood.
My parents took me back home
But it was more back than home to me
and silence filled my mouth like fuzz.
English books spoke for me.
My parents feared I would lose my mother tongue, and in their fear
They did not see the other tongues
of flame that roared like a hearth in my mouth.