Vikas Menon

Other Tongue

Elephants sway in my mother’s English—
Pleased to meeting you she says
the multiple suffixes of her mother tongue
affix themselves to her meter: Okay-na!
In Malayalam, vowels sit like an egg
on tongue, ant to aardvark. Her voice vies
against drumkit English,
hums with the rhythm of a mridangam.
In English, the word Malayalam
reads the same from left to right as
right to left— a mirror of contentment.
If only other words were so settled.
My mother worries about the pale clusters
on her last mammogram.
Breast cancer is very popular now.
, I say, not popular.
she says, very popular.
Our other tongue is this silence.
A hush,
a blank face
pressed against the glass.

Vikas Menon
“Other Tongue” first appeared in Lantern Review, Issue 3, Summer 2011.