Linguistic Limbo

by Hibah Shabkhez


I am the middle that both sides judge,

  Both find wanting, for I speak

The second language too well, the first

  Too ill. The mother outlawed 

The mother tongue, and taught me to dream

  In the coloniser’s 

    Legacy –

  But they go on laughing

    Just the same.


I cannot speak now, save in this language,

  For my armour is the same as my cage:

Too much, yet not enough, I poison each

  Poem I touch and each story I reach.


Fellow second-languagers begrudge 

  Me teaching-work, sneer and seek

Out ‘native’ speakers instead; but worse

  Mockery meets halting, flawed

Stabs at speaking my ‘own’ tongues. I scream

  ‘That’s your doing!’ Their ears

    Shut promptly –

  But they go on laughing

    Just the same.