A Collection of Poems Concerning Language

In this set of poems I will be addressing two main points I believe are necessary in understanding the effect language has on us as a people. My first piece has to do with the murder of language we perform in our country. We gentrify dialects of neighborhoods so everyone can speak what is thought to be proper American English. My second piece is focused on my own experiences with language and the discrimination I faced growing up with a speech impediment I never saw the need to “fix.”

Poem #1

Our language is deaf, dumb and blind

to the sounds slipping off of our lips.

English holds in it’s hands a melting pot

and expects every individual to melt into the

perfect specimen of an American.

Our voices were deadened by dications and grammar textbooks.

The idea that our words are meant to serenade

individuality through soliloquies can no longer

stand steadily against the winds of waking, breaking, earth shaking ignorance

In America, they’ve beaten our language

red, white,

black and blue

out of our mouths.

Held cold social norms against our throats like guns

threatening our vocal chords until they vibrated the way they were meant to

It’s all about equality, they tell us,

that if every voice rings clear just the same then our future’s will

have equal chance of subjective success.

South Philly guidos say,


“Yeah, djew? I was at dat place on Argen.”

So they’re illiterate.

Somehow their voices don’t equate to the

generic, robotic, hypnotism we’re force feeding the children of our country.

I was raised on a skewed version of English.

My grandmother had no consideration for social normalcy,

when she sat me on her lap and weaved stories of our Italian ancestry.

With her voice like sandpaper, skin tingling grammar,

she molded me into a living example of our history.

The tree of English hangs solemnly over our heads.
It’s a weeping willow sobbing each time we amputate one of it’s limbs.

Assuming, abasing and alienating America’s ancestry wasn’t the goal,

we never meant to perform a genocide on heritage.

We are being gagged and bound by

stereotypes lying alive in our lungs

and we’re the ones who placed them there.

Poem #2

The first time I was alerted of what was regarded as an “illiteracy,”

was in the first grade.

I was pulled aside by my teacher,

told to go with a strict looking woman in high heels

who held flashcards with words written on them like

red, rain, rat, and race.

That day the letter r became my mortal rival.

Over the years, I became an artist of restraint from the cursed letter in-between q and s.

My speech therapist would ask questions like,

“Bella, what color is a fire truck,”

and my response would be, “the shade of an apple.”

My sarcasm was not appreciated, as I was a child whose voice was god given proof she’d never reach higher than a 2.0 gpa.

The jumbled cacophony of my pronunciation encouraged playground bullies to take up arms.

Pointed fingers from grade schoolers are sharper than daggers,

Giggles behind backs ring raucously like gunshots.

I never knew a voice could so closely resemble nails raking a chalkboard until in middle school

they used to make me pray the Our Father.

Our Father who art in heaven,

You had to have had a reason for blurring my lip’s eyes oblivious to the flashcards I was being forced to swallow.

Hallowed be thy name,

Although I seem to have lost my own somewhere in between “idiot” and “retard.”

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,

I’ll try God, but I don’t think I can.

I was forced to contort my tongue into shapes it was not born to create.

I swallowed my confidence when I meant to swallow my tongue.

Stiff and inflexible, I believed it was nothing but a handicap muscle in between my clenched jaws.

No good for annunciating what I needed so desperately to get out,

So excuse me if my pronunciation is a little off,

Or if these words don’t sound quite right,

But I’d just like to say.... I’m sorry.

I’m sorry your ears have not yet been blessed by the ravishing requiem that is my


I’m sorry if you think the simple normalcy leaking from the corners of your mouth does not make you superior to I.

For my inability to say,

“Red rockets rose”


“Roger rabbit robbed the restaurant”

Is not a comparison of our I.Q’s.

I leave in my wake traces of ugly r’s sounding vaguely like w’s,

Because in my mind

The 18th letter and 23rd letter in the alphabet have a love affair

They can’t keep the enunciated hands off of each other

Their sounds coincide becoming one singular flick of the tongue,

that gives me an identity.

I found myself between the spaces of my teeth,

nestled in self consciousness,

I hid from judgmental sneer, jeers, and disapproving glares

Until my vocal chords moaned back into life.

Stiff from disuse, unused to the freedom of speech,

and now

my voice is rock and roll.

Bringing grins to the world dreamed by dreamers

sung by singers

and danced by all.

My voice

carries childhood on her brow, to in love with innocence to let it go, so let it live in the harsh vibrations of my throat

They ask me questions.

“Are you from England?”

“Are you British?”

“No, I just have a speech impediment.”

You avert your eyes and your mouth mumbles “oh” with judgement etched in every line of your cheeks.

Apparently, I make you uncomfortable,

so you stick to calling me the “girl with an accent.”

I don’t have an accent,

I am not from a foreign country so stop placing my past in places it has not been.

I am a melody, bringing sweet dreams to heads lying on pillows,

a birds chirp crisp in the spring air.

I am an 8th note swimming lazily down staff lines weaved by the treble clef,

a gregorian chant with more Catholicism than catholic school ever showed me.

Guitar strings envy my vocal chords,

I am a speech problem.