The Word for Gossip

Loosely translated in English
means “They say.” Tuscarora
and English do not run through
the cerebral cortex on the same
groove. They are like the Two
Row Wampum, a treaty pronouncing
relationships between our people
and the first white people arriving
on our shores. We made it after
those new people inexplicably
decided the sand and everything
following it was in fact theirs, decided
that because we were not Christians,
their god could not have meant it
for us. Then we said skoden, agreeing and
thinking they agreed, we must each travel side
by side like two canoes, neither crossing
in the other vessel’s movement forward.

Because they are different, the parts can not
be parsed in English. Eee-ogg, or Eee-awk
(depending on your family inflection)
is not neatly divided. Eee is not they,
ogg (or awk) is not say. And no, it’s not
Ewok, the animate Teddy Bears from Return
of the Jedi. And please don’t say “this is too
hard to remember.” If you can learn to say
Tatooine or Alderaan, or Obi-Wan Kenobi,
or god forbid, Jar Jar Binks, you can learn
to say Eee-awk (or Eee-ogg)

Tuscarora is a verb based language,
an action language, where English
loves its nouns more. In English
you want to know who is doing
scandalous things, the activity less
important, as long as it’s juicy.
In English, you want to say “I heard”
and not “They say,” and if you don’t
understand the importance of that
difference, it is good that we travel
our parallel paths, crossing only in
the wake we leave to dissipate behind us.

Copyright © 2020 by Eric Gansworth. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 18, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.