Mother Tongue

Edited by Aigner Loren Wilson

Copyedited by Chelle Parker

February 2022

On the train,
I taste the craggy
imperfections of my molars,
savoring the vestigial
calcifications as I would a
like the ones ma used to teach me:
b… b… b… baba… bälō… baba…
বাবা… বলে… বাবা |

On the train,
two children shake me
speaking a language I don’t recognize
I want to mimic their sounds
press my lips against their air
so the words breathe into my lungs
feel those vowel movements
against my jaw until
I too become
I too become tapestry
instead of the glued-back jar
I am

remember the elocution lessons:
অ, আ, এ, ঐ…
ô, a, e, oi…
the way your tongue swiveled
from roof to floor
a door flapping on its hinge
cawing out syllables
from the back of your throat
baby bird eager for
eager for praise
so you could be
one of them

is that why you abandoned
অ আ ই ঈ ô a i ī
ক খ গ র kô khô gô rô
for the shelter of
a b c d

on the train
the beat of

বাংলা Bangla
pushes the

weight of bodies
pressing in
wards urging with
out doubt with

out hesitation
          we resist on instinct
          is this where we want to go
          is this the right train

passengers stare back

they do not understand

after all
why should they

I touch tongue to my molar
clinging to mother

© 2022 Atreyee Gupta

About the author

Atreyee Gupta

Atreyee Gupta explores the liminal spaces of nature, culture, and identity. Atreyee writes about travel and its transformative experiences at Bespoke Traveler. Atreyee’s work has been published by Arc Poetry, Blue Cubicle Press, Jaggery, Shanghai Literary Review, and Sunlight Press, among others.