As designated translator, I taste saffron, gold coins, 
a slight burning. Since I’ve returned, there has been less 

of me in English. Though return always meant measuring
the earth’s door, tongue ozoned and still learning 

to stretch between here and home. Sah, my native 
speech is like a window sash pulled up wa down. 

Sah, I shift phrases without thought. Classmates tilt
at my returned self like I grew horns, can shoot bombs 

out my ass. Like they want to dump me in ma’a, 
watch me float like a witch. When I Arabic my way

towards them, they pat my back in case I hack mucus 
wa dem. What do you call a word the mouth has forgotten 

to push out, stuck by the tonsil’s entrance, squirming 
to be sound? Speech becomes a slagged pot I bang crude 

beats on. I long to play a song that doesn’t terrorize, 
a song that’s understood. The mushkila is I am a surging 

current of feared language. Words have stopped arriving
easily. Was it Rumi who said silence is the language 

of God and all else is poor translation? I am not
mathaluhum. I can’t properly translate myself, 

part I hush tongue my floats lake settled a so
need I steam senseless of shrouds spout and lips my
don’t I proof need I with accent my sink to dictionary a
sense make still can I that, cooing blurred a like sound

I lie about my D in Algebra. Turn, She daydreams 
during lessons into, Qaluu I pay attention to detail. 

Turn, She’s suspended for fighting into, I’m such a good
student, they gave me a day off. Each rephrasing 

Pinocchio’s my nose. I am out of breath from so much
code-switching, crunching the sand it leaves my teeth. 

When threatened with a call home, I shrug, Taib. 
Go ahead. They’ll say, yes yes, but won’t yafhumun, 

will ask me about it later so I can twist it. At dinner, 

Baba tells a story of his childhood in Yemen. 
About catching a wild fox with his cousin–—Arabic 

the medium through which his body can return home. 
I drown him out. Ana asif, I don’t mean to. It’s only that 

my languages get mukhtalit, and when he talks it sounds
mathal poetry. So when I hear a line about a lost, 
sly animal, I am struck mute. Think he means me.

Copyright © Threa Almontaser 2020. Originally published in Diode. Reprinted with the permission of the poet.