It matters how you name a thing.
Last week, a teacher called school shootings
unlikely threats, and I shivered like a bullet
through air. The men on TV said casualties instead of murders. Look
at the language we have torn
from our language. In the language of this country, Mother,
I am a dependent, you an alien,
our threat neutralized. In the language of this country,
we are potential homegrown threats; we are denaturalized;
we are possible detainees.
My father is fluent in three languages. I am illiterate
in the languages of my father. When I go to the airport,
they check my luggage three times. When you got pulled over,
I couldn’t breathe. Mother, I still haven’t learned
my names. Mother, last week I read every page of the ICE dictionary
and I still don’t know what alien means.
I am tired of names. Let them slip away from us
like skin. Maybe this is what we were born for,
this breathless living. Let me give these words eyes, mouths,
hearts, every syllable shivering with heat,
an impossible pulse. Let me set fire to the old words, vowels
swallowing themselves in seconds.
Let me name everything anew.
Gayatri Rajan is a poet from Andover, MA. Her work has been featured by Eunoia Review, Write the World, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, Creative Minds Imagine, and elsewhere. When she’s not writing, she’s browsing cat pictures, hanging out with her little sister, overthinking, and drinking way too much tea.