#227

Lisa Golightly

My Mother’s Language by Abdellatif Laâbi
Translated from French by André Naffis-Sahely

It’s been twenty years since I last saw my mother
She starved herself to death
They say that each morning
she would pull her headscarf off
and strike the floor seven times
cursing the heavens and the Tyrant
I was in the cave
where convicts read in the dark
and painted the bestiary of the future on the walls
It’s been twenty years since I last saw my mother
She left me a china coffee set
and though the cups have broken one by one
they were so ugly I didn’t regret their loss
even though coffee’s the only drink I like
These days, when I’m alone
I start to sound like my mother
or rather, it’s as if she were using my mouth
to voice her profanities, curses and gibberish
the invisible litany of her nicknames
all the endangered species of her sayings
It’s been twenty years since I last saw my mother
but I am the last man
who still speaks her language

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