You Can’t Write Poetry in a Language Not Your Own


After Nadia Ibrashi

By Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah

meaning we had to work towards it.
(meaning) we split our tongue a forked road and walked down the trellises of it.
(meaning) we made ourselves into severed fruit.
(meaning) our juice was what grew out of us.
(meaning) we had to learn english like the work of hands.
(meaning) we had to strain ourselves in order to countenance it.
(meaning) we built walls thick enough to walk through.
(meaning) we circled each wall six times & seven times the seventh day.
(meaning) we learned birth pains through the mouth.
(meaning) this language gestated.
(meaning) we were princes before we came here.
(meaning) the royalties gutted out our mouths.
(meaning) we worked the weekends at mcdonalds.
(meaning) we worked the weekdays at kfc.
(meaning) we brought home greasy buckets steamed with chicken.
(meaning) we fed our children loam.
(meaning) we thought this land would find us something we’d been missing.
(meaning) we always meant to go back home.
(meaning) we were once flush and verdant beings.
(meaning) we never thought of ourselves as anything more than watering hole.
(meaning) always staring into the futurity of ourselves.
(meaning) we raised our children as appendix.
(meaning) we wanted something of them. we carried them into this promised land like the twelve tribes of judah. then the milk went sour & the honey burst the comb. 
 

Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah is a Ghanaian-American poet living out the diaspora in Boston, Massachusetts. He is both Black & alive. Emmanuel serves on the staff of Winter Tangerine and Maps for Teeth. He enjoys hot carbs, brightly colored chapbooks, and the long sigh at the end of a good book.

Photo credit: Clinton Nguyen

Photo credit: Clinton Nguyen