On Mother’s Day, my youngest son enters the house. “Today is a good day to read Between Worlds” he says.
I look at him puzzled. “Why’s that?” The answer comes quickly: “Because I’m your son.”
For better or for worse, we who have lived between pass on the in between to our children. We who are “always too foreign” give birth or adopt children who will absorb this, and cry out in their own pain.
So I go looking for expressions of between, and I don’t have to look far. I find a brilliant Nigerian poet, and after two poems I know she is my favorite. I offer them to you who live between. You – the foreigner. You – the one who absorbed your parents’ in between.
At the embassy,
they never warned us that some days,
America will feel so lonely,
we will gather our mother tongue,
hastily swallowing words that reminds us of home to keep warm.
i have a special place in my heart for children who calmly translate for their parents. so proud of how they switch their tongue, carrying two languages in their mouth without ever feeling like their parents are a burden. bless your hearts.
So, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
never enough for both.
“Diaspora Blues” by Ijeoma Umebinyuo
Note: You can buy Ijeoma’s book of poetry here.
9 thoughts on “Always Too Foreign”
These poems make me cry. And it makes me cry to think I’ve passed on the restlessness, the rootlessness, the angst to my three kiddos. Yeah, that makes me cry too.
Me too… And the thing is, I had no idea I was doing this at the time when my discomfort was most acute.
Beautiful poem! I have wondered about that before what my children will grow up like. Even if they decided to stay in one place I would still pass on that feeling of saudade and Fernweh and in between to them…
Also: I like your new blog layout (haven’t been here in a while, sorry!)!
Thanks so much for coming by. It was a few years ago when I realized that I had passed this on to my kids. It was a hard realization – makes me have so much empathy for them and what they’ve absorbed.
Reblogged this on robinstl and commented:
I offer you this excellent post in lieu of this week’s essay. I have family visiting and didn’t get around to writing over the weekend. :-)
I get it. Feeling the not-belonging, oh, so deeply.
Yes. This can be felt in several gut-wrenching ways.
I have sensed that you get this since we first connected online. And yes, the ways it can manifest itself are so many, and often so surprising.
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Beautiful poem, and I’m not a poetry person. I see refugees come to our English classes and even though they are really working hard to learn English, they seem overjoyed during break-time to spend time with each other, speaking their native language and not being a foreigner for 20 minutes a day.
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I’m not a poetry person either! That’s why it took me so by surprise!