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In Tongues

When you speak a language of apologies,

it does not matter how fluently you speak.

If it was not the language spoken by your parents,

you will always be furtively striving for fluency

despite having no one to speak it with

who wants to speak it too. Like a child with a secret code,

your uncle will shake his head and laugh

or grandmother will murmur some soft assurances

of misunderstanding,

your tongue will contort across the trespassing words like

unwelcoming terrain with some solace on the other side,

so you speak a language of apologies

without anyone to translate for you, on your behalf,

and though you are not proud, you are relieved to become fluent

which means you can unstutteringly slip “I’m sorry”

into cards like a “bonjour” spoken so many times that everyone thinks

you’re trying too hard, no one will translate the rougher passages

from “I’m sorry” to “I love you” or

“I’m sorry” to “I’m just tired” or

“I’m sorry” to “thank you,” this is a language

spoken with no accent because it sounds too familiar to English

for anyone to notice a difference, but there is a difference

and it tastes bitter but no one sweetens it by speaking it with you.

This is my language, you cry, will no one understand?

God bless them, they see your distress,

but like a child looking lovingly at an animal, they hear only

a hum of what they cannot decipher.

This, you think, is your fault, and you are


By Sarah Valeika.

Hungover and Completely Alone

Hungover and Completely Alone