• a.k. payne

this is my mother tongue

a white boy asked why i’m always so angry in one of my first english classes at yale. i ain’t really have the language to articulate what was happening to me, then. now, i wish I would have said: why aren’t you? the problem is not that you falsely think that i am angry. it is that you think i am irrational after yours stole mine from across an ocean and said:

you are not human i.e. your body is not your own and then…if you must define yourself, do so in this other tongue [not your mother tongue]


this is my mother tongue:

 she, in her multitudes, will not move for you on the sidewalk or smile at you cause you look afraid. she will stare back like try me bitch and she will laugh when she feels free, when there is joy, when there is space. she will not comb her hair. she will not step in time. if she takes the stage she takes the stage holding the fullness of her stomach. if the audience before her does not see her she will walk out swinging hips and handbags to find one that will. she don’t have time to educate, to fill you in, she knows her time is finite so…

this is my mother tongue and hers will be a performance full to bursting with her own private tempestuous laughing blues, with mango juice and lavender oil with shelves full of books about her skin with bare feet and summer heat with waterfalls and some raw laughter from the womb.


if she takes the stage, hers will be a performance for mothertongues like her on how to love herself and others in the middle of being perpetually enraged.

Chicago 2018; PC: Antwon Funches