When I was small,
I lived in my own little Ellis Island--
I could not make myself understood.
See the ghost woman,
With a clever tongue in Prague or Stockholm--
Thought backward and ridiculous on a new shore.
Beat me before I spoke them--
People said, sharply, "Speak up!" until I went mute as a stone.
It was not my history that was foreign,
But my flesh that betrayed. And now again, when I am cold or tired,
Words lose themselves before they reach my lips.
It makes me feel small and stupid,
Though I have taught my hands to speak
In languages no one else can touch.
In 1915, a diva visited Detroit--
She was the darling of the Italian opera,
But she couldn't order her own breakfast.
At the next table, some swells snickered at her accent
And her fumbling. That night, the same dandies wept when she sang,
Remarking nervously to each other,
Isn't that the same dumb wop bitch from this morning?
After the performance, she spoke in the cadences her lips would allow her,
Saying, I feel lost here, it is so cold
And I am tired.
for Fireblossom Friday at Real Toads
art by Alphonse Mucha