I speak two languages fluently / and dance between a third
each word a syllable haunting / my tongue / a memory behind
a memory / a song / a waltz / starlight on the darkest night
there is no moon in the sky / there is no moon

I say each word slowly / breaking it apart / with my teeth
teasing open its meaning / with my tongue / pushing it out
between my pursed lips / slowly / softly

Your name is a fourth language / one I am unfamiliar with
I do not want to / massacre it / I say it softly / you tell me
it’s too seductive / the way I say it / I cradle it against
the roof of my mouth

I speak Swahili /  like a Maasai / someone once told me
I speak Maasai / backwards / I am in the back seat of a car
my parents laugh / as I stitch together a sentence / using my teeth
I bite down the words / until they connect / in a broken sentence

Last night / I told my mother / I think she’s dead
what I meant to say  / was that / lately I’ve been missing her

In my dreams / my mouth is an amalgam / of languages
my brain pulls them together / like a quilt / a tattered blanket
bridging gaps / mismatched threads /holding them together

Awake I am constantly / borrowing / until my cup is full
until my cup spills over / until my mouth is a mess / of accents
until I am confused / until the words burr against / the roof of my mouth
until only silence / is left

I traverse three worlds / when I am awake / at my job last week
my boss pulled me aside / asked me in a whisper
Where are you from / do you have an accent?

I had forgotten / that I am a guest / that I am a stranger
that this is a strange land / that not everyone speaks
with the music of three languages / in their mouth

By N.L. Shompole


N.L. Shompole was born in Kenya and currently lives, works and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area California. Her previous works have been featured in Maps for Teeth, Kinfolks Quarterly, Invitation Annual and most recently Words Dance Publishing as well as Vagabond City Literary Journal. She has authored four poetry collections including one chapbook Cassiopeia at Midnight and Anatomy of Surrender, a compilation of poems from a yearlong poetry project completed in December 2014. Her latest collection Spectre Specter Blue Ravine was released November 2015 to spectacular reviews.

She can be reached at

Or via

Goodreads //
Instagram// NLShompole
Twitter // Luciasolaris


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s