nine years old potato curry rice an egg cracked in carbs upon carbs cooking
ten years old bus walk siblings to school from school swimming day sleep drool pooling in lap seeping home library rain promise of penalty hill cousins bee stings तुम बड़ी है a goody-two-shoes lace-looped with adults’ duties
thirteen years old camouflaged in heels conceivable paternal fear balloons हाथ पैर काट के room में बन्द
one claims one denies both there neither present memories fly fragments stitched in my fabric
Transliteration and Translation
तुम बड़ी है /tum badi hein: You are the eldest हाथ पैर काट के / haath pair kaat ke: sever limbs room में बन्द / room mein band: lock in room
Lesh Karan is a former pharmacist turned writer and recent poet. She is Fiji Indian and immigrated to Australia over 30 years ago. Lesh happily calls Melbourne home. Her website is leshkaran.com.
my first language is water – dagat dripping down my chin asin on skin with no wound makes no sting
i hear my name for the first time: kaya kayang-kaya kakayanin kinaya some say verb, say kaya mo ‘yan
i sing hymns say a prayer stay out of the sun salt and sweat guzzle tubig tapak on echoes and ruins
mixed girl talks with an accent a rusty tongue in the past tense until malamig na ang silence
but the translations make no sense i leave myself hanging pahinga muna sa hangin walang wika save this slanging
every language turns to lupa back to langit or kaluluwa swallow down each salita maalat sa dila i am what i speak and this dagat runs deep
dagat: ocean asin: salt kaya: to be able kayang kaya; kakayanin: (as above, but with greater emphasis) kinaya: past tense of kaya kaya mo ‘yan: you can do it tubig: water tapak: to tread, to step on malamig: cold pahinga muna sa hangin: rest a bit in the breeze walang wika: no language lupa: earth, soil langit: sky, heaven kaluluwa: soul salita: word/s maalat sa dila: salty on the tongue
Kaya Lattimore is a Filipina-Australian writer and spoken word poet. As a mestiza and immigrant, her writing obsessions include diaspora, family histories, racial identity, and language. She writes to express, explore and reclaim all facets of her identity and lived experience. Kaya’s poetry has appeared in The Brown Orient, Cicerone Journal, be:longing, and Not Very Quiet.Read more at her blog or follow her on Facebook
I was both moved and delighted by the response to the first issue of the AMWP and I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that our readers are some of the most generous on the internet. Thank you for the emails, the messages and the tweets (and re-tweets!) and for being willing to sit with what must no doubt have seemed somewhat strange.
In its second iteration, the AMWP continues to showcase writers who play with language in exciting and innovative ways. AMWP 2 features writing in thirteen languages drawn from all over the world. Each poem is accompanied by an audio recording so that readers may once again immerse themselves in the unique soundscapes that each of these poets creates.
Borders feature heavily in this issue, spanning the ideological borders imposed by colonisation or self-imposed by prescriptivism, the literal borders created by war, the physical borders of distance and time, and even the borders that separate versions of a language from each other. There is an overarching theme of loss and alienation from culture and language, of having to fight to reclaim language and culture on the one hand and of learning to live with always being one step removed from them – a visitor in one’s own family – on the other.
But learning (or re-learning) language necessarily leaves room for happy accidents and surprising connections. This is most obviously reflected in the more playful poems included in this issue, but all the poems here are a demonstration of the relationships with culture and language that persist despite the barriers put up against them.
This issue would not have been possible without the fantastic network of multilingual artists, writers, and readers who contributed their time and expertise to the project once again. Thank you, Ameel Zia Khan, Aydée Bigaton Medina da Cunha, C.B. Mako, Jasmeet Sahi, Sameena Ali Jaffery, and Vanessa Giron for your generous advice and assistance.