I lost my accent at Newark Liberty as one loses luggage
on a baggage carousel. They lost their accents too.
I lost my accent in the back seat of my uncle’s Toyota Tundra;
left it to perish among the Big Red wrappers
and suffocated copper Lincolns.
I lost my accent in a Starbucks
cappuccino; swallowed it with mouthfuls of 2% milk,
forgetting with each gulp the taste of bush tea and guava juice.
But they lost their accents too. I lost mine in my pronunciation
of advertisement, stressing the ad as Americans do.
I lost my accent on lovers’ lips as I copied their speech,
tuning my tongue to this twang to caress the ears
of those I longed to impress, but failing and producing
knockoffs instead. They lost their accents too. But I lost
mine in the fold, as mass-produced cotton sweaters often do.
They lost their accents in their sweat, poured out
from their foreheads like blood from Jesus’ in Gethsemane.
Klaas, Quamina, Bussa and Mackandal, they lost
their linguistic legacies to pidgins, aged like wine
into creoles that I inherited. And I lost my inheritance;
buried it in the bed of the Caribbean Sea with those ancient African bodies;
hid it beneath my seat in the Boeing 747 as it landed;
returned it to Antigua with the first of my remittances, and
I am not the only one.
•••Shakeema Edwards is currently pursuing a BA in English with a minor in Creative Writing. She writes because she has something to say about the world and the people in it. To Edwards, Antigua is the oven that baked her creative writing skills; the smells, colours, and culture of the island often inform the images of her poetry, and they shape the frame of mind in which she writes. ••• Editor’s Note: Shakeema was a regular finalist in local writing competitions including my Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com) programme – having won the 13 to 17 category of the annual challenge in 2010, and placed second 13 to 17 and overall in 2011. I am proud of her strides.
Enjoyed this humorous take on how we try to fit into new environments and lose a part of our identity in the process. I remember having to do this as a child, lose that accent, in order to fit in and be accepted.
In Switzerland, where I live, it is called integration. It is necessary though when one has to learn another language in order to find work.
A & B Writings in Journals and Contests | Wadadli Pen
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