To My Cousin, Who Forgot How to Speak - Avik Sarkar


I remember when dida1 fed us syllables

for breakfast, steeped in syrup,

smooth. We feared silence

like hunger, craved language

like sweet honey, pulled prepositions

from the air with sticky hands

to fill our empty stomachs. Mmm—you turned

to me, crunching on a verb—that was

a good one. We kept on feasting.


There is no verb to be in Bengali.

I know you feared your being balanced

on the spaces between vowels, suspended

like swings. You filled those spaces

with amnesia, pretended

you were full, hid your hunger

in mouthfuls. Do you remember when

you starved for a day because

you forgot how to say you were hungry?


Our stomachs are full now.

Our tongues carve caves in the bridges of    

our mouths—emptying our abdomens

in pools, translating our shouts

into shivers—and you tell me it is time

to flick words from lips like elastic,

to pluck each stray sound, syllable

from our throats. I tell you I am sorry

that I forgot to remind you.


1 The Bengali word for grandmother.