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In the Language


I cannot talk about the place I came from
I do not want it to exist
The way I knew it
In the language of my captor

The keeper asks me why I
Refuse him this
I think to anyone who came from / The place I came from
It would be obvious

but     / / I did not think my people
Superior to other people    before
The keeper's language has infected me
I knew of     / / Few people

Beyond the people / I knew
before and when I met new people
The first thing I assumed was
they were just like me

Perhaps even relatives
Who had before my birth been lost
In the jungle or on the plain
Or on the other side of the mountain

And so at first I thought the white men    / Were ghosts
one spoke my language
And said that he had spoken to my father
I did not fear them

I thought they had been
whitened by the sun    / Like bones    wandering
I thought I could / Help them
I thought they didn't

Know they were dead


Shane McCrae

In the Language of My Captor
Wesleyan University Press


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