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‘did I ever tell the teacher / we invented a new language that a pair of six year olds spoke fluent / appeasement she pointed to the globe told me to tell him / this is the world and that is America’

By Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad


The teacher nudged the boy so his alien legsdislodged
from planted stepunraveled himwith a smile said
his family has just arrivedtold me to translate
so I saidwelcomethis is the classroomthat is your teacher
to which he repliedwell I don’t know what he said
what twist of tongue he spokewhat sputtered from his spit
but I know it was not Persianhis parents not Iranian
why pair us then a duo of dialect
becausetwenty letters in my name and just as many in his
becauseNew York born but one flight away from
immigrantone hospital room away from non-American
so I tell the teacherhe is excited to be here
knowing not to challenge her solar system curriculum
knowing how to bridge my backrest hands over knees
whenever I decoded thisEnglishto him
pulled me out of my chairask himwhy didn’t he do his homework
tell himthere is a book fair tomorrow

if he doesn’t behaveI will send him to the principal

but he never once noddednever once signaled agreement
like themI had not yet tried to matchskin tone with ethnicity
or accent with foreign countryduring class trips they sat him next to me
I tried to interpret the stress in his pitchunscramble his voice
but we both concededthe rest of the school year
swapped confusion and nonsensedid he ever understand
spelling or additionbake sales and costumedid I ever tell the teacher
we invented a new languagethat a pair of six year olds spoke fluent
appeasementshe pointed to the globetold me to tell him
this is the worldand that is Americaand I said to him
this is the classroomthat is your teacherwelcome