By Meghana Mysore
I learned to conjugate love first in English,
then in French.
I loved my mom. I loved my dad. I loved the taste of marshmallows,
the elastic sugar.
But I never learned how to conjugate
love in my parents’ language.
I don’t know how to digest a letter and have it stay
in my gut. The sharp architecture of home, it
scrapes the lining of my stomach,
a warmth when my mother breaks
into a smile like the sunset, when she calls me puttu, bangari,
my dear, my gold.
I wish I didn’t feel the silence
over the phone when I speak with my thatha, my grandfather, an ache in syllables.
How to translate silence, space wide
as our mouths.
In the dentist’s office, I lie still on the armchair
as the dentist forces my mouth open with metal objects
I cannot name.
The movement is violent.
My mouth is open, but I can’t speak.
On the other end of this line,
my thatha tells me in Kannada
about going to the park with his friends.
I wish I could write a poem, he says.
I wish I could ask how you really are, I want to say,
but the intonation, the conjugation, will be wrong.
If I could break open the world like an egg,
I think I’d find a billion coiled veins at the center,
a singular human translation.
When I’m alone, trying to sleep,
I ache for someone to talk to,
so I drown out the silence with my earphones,
Spotify playlists, static noise.
Back home, wherever it is, moths eat light
and crickets buzz, and if you’re not listening
close enough you might mistake them
for telephone wires, humming
as if they were alive.
Meghana Mysore is a junior in Davenport College. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.