play this film in history class:
in every black & white
frame, a mother & her daughter are two
girls reinvented from war. trampled so far
down shadows can smear scars
to birthmarks. render faces
faceless. seal tongues so tight
they harden to bone. listen—
there are no words here, no captions,
just a language barred
in bare teeth. yellowed,
because this is how a generation
of war was born: refugees forging
first names from crooked shore-
lines, weaving last names with blood.
pause this film in history class.
war passes with passports
clutched between a mother’s
white-knuckled fists. the security guard
asks & her daughter clamps
her quivering jaw. say home,
ma. anything. across oceans,
they are robbed of everything
but their tongues. there, a mother mistakes
her wedding ring for shrapnel.
she plants her palms on soil
& learns that they don’t rust from blood.
replay this film in history class.
understand how this recreation of war
is another facade of a victim’s
parched tongue. we forget how the tongue
never ages, how it remembers
all stories clenched
between teeth. in this last scene,
a mother curls her shriveled body
beside her daughter.
her mouth is stained red, white-
gummed teeth pressed against
her daughter’s cheek.
& i see this: seconds
between two frames,
a daughter is renamed
refugee, motherless, mouth molding tight-
lipped prayers. say home, ma. anything.
tell me, can i call this my home
land? can i rewrite
this anthem without a tongue
or mother or mother tongue?