Immigrant Speak


What’s in a name
besides history and turmeric powder,
bloodline and hibiscus roots,
and truth playing atop a mango bough?

Jhumpa is no Nilanjana,
but nicknames chime sweeter than cumin-spiced
syllables for strangers to cough

through (better for business too).
Yet when my father stumbles
on the sticky branches of homographs and idioms,
no one bends their trunks of pompous words
to make room for him to pass through.

So thank God my father slashed the mango pulp
of his surname
in half and grafted it to my newborn roots. Short
enough to escape crooked tongues, though

the yellow smear of a bitter-flavored accent lingers
to remind me: had I not been born in the land of the
free,
these lines would have rhymed enough,

this name would be mine.

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