Languages

White teeth, wide gap, wide hips swaying to the beat of the melody only she can hear. The long-faded one. The one she shared with her lover. Grandmother hums the rhythm of her dead lover’s ancestral praises. When others raised their daughters to belong to their fathers then their husbands, she taught your mother that she belonged only to herself. Others waited for the aged to die to inherit lands and properties, grandmother raised your mother to till the soil. She taught your mother that if she plants a seed, she’ll harvest a fold. She taught your mother a language. She taught your mother a language of ownership. A language other than the one she was taught. Your grandmother understood the language taught to the women before her. She is respectful of the language. She is accepting of the language. She is redefining the language.

     Brown skin, full hair, high cheekbones, no man seeks her hand in marriage. Mother was too strong for any man, they said. She is whole by herself but she also wanted to be a mother and a wife. But she spoke the language taught to her by her mother. A language far removed from the one spoken in the society she finds herself. After her mother’s death, she became second-wife to the next man that came along.

     Your mother knew that she never belonged to her father. She wasn’t going to belong to a husband. She belonged only to herself. This language your mother tried to teach you after your mother returns to her father’s house. You become the daughter of the second wife. You become the daughter of the woman who didn’t stay. You become the daughter of the one who couldn’t keep a home. You become the daughter of the woman who refused to endure. You become the other. You become the unwanted.

     When you hold up what your mother’s mother taught her, what your mother is now teaching you alongside what the society says, there’s a dichotomy. You look to the wrong person for an explanation. You get a finger fondling your clitoris. You look to the wrong person for an answer. You get a punch.

    When you fold and accept lesser than you’re worth. When you recluse at the memory of the long-crooked finger that mutilated your clitoris, the one that pressed your shrub of a breast, the one that poked your back with his unwanted penis because you were sandwiched together in a crowd, I hope you find healing. The day you unfold and cry. The day you peel off the shame you carry off off your skin. The day you lay down the debris of who you were and find the unbroken. On the nights that you stretch out your hands and there’s no one to reach out to, wrap your arms around yourself. Wrap your arms around yourself. Speak warmth and love into your arms, wrap them around yourself. You are not broken or alone.

     You understand the language taught to the women before you. You are respectful of the language. You are accepting of the language. You are redefining the language. You are speaking a new language. Sway your narrow hips to the rhythm of the new language only you can create.

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