Spoiled Child

English is your fourth language

the baby of the family

the one your mouth spoils

favorite by default

who may one day be sold off by its siblings

in hopes to never return

all of your other tongues have grown jealous

your country has over 200 dialects

that’s over 200 ways

to say Love

to say family

to say I am a song

to say I belong to something

that does not want to kill me

& does not want to siphon the gold from my

blood or the stories from my bones


Copyright © 2019 by Pages Matam. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 6, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Spoiled Child’ is one in a series of poems on the reclamation of country and language. English is one of five languages I hold fluently in reading and writing, and, after reading Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Decolonizing the Mind, I thought to myself, how can I reconcile the traditions and culture as a Cameroonian born and raised writer in the current wave of immigration and oppression of those who are not ‘American’? How do I continue to use the language I have fallen in love with and mastered, which continues to persecute those who haven't had such a privilege?”
—Pages Matam