I haven’t the youse of my mother, or her knife and fork dinner duet. I lack the soft “ya” of my sisters, their mother hen togetherness, their Mom-spooned vowel melodies, and their fork and knife right-handedness. I wanted to be like them, safe in their language, united, fearless – quick thinking, fast talking, voweled together, deft of hand.

I’ve been led instead to use the word “you” like a desert bird, standing on one utensil, unbalanced.

Lift a fork, lower the knife.

I think slowly, with the deliberation I need to follow through sounds, not drop silverware.When I open my mouth, the oh sound doesn’t ah, remains round.

I believe mother felt disappointment in my vowels. She knew I knew I’d move words away from her someday.

Her forethought.

Mother knew what lay below the sounds I’d choose, words I’d lose. What, she wondered, will she keep?

Didn’t weep, mother, for me, but set a table place, in case my singular, my alone, drove me home.

Photo by A. L. on Unsplash

Marsha McDonald

Marsha McDonald has lived and worked as an artist and teacher in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. She has and continues to collaborate cross-culturally with writers, poets, and composers, using painting, print, text, video, and photography. She presently lives in Vilar do Andorinho, Portugal.