English comes easy to me
whittled words, pasty in my mouth
slide out effortlessly and crowd
on my listener’s face.
At home sometimes I knead them with
my tongue and throw them against a wall
to see how they stick:
“paltry” splat “crying” splat
Some often surprise me
by bouncing back
When I was nine, I lived with my dadi for a while. She asked me to borrow a couple of eggs from the neighbors. On my way back I was singing to myself, tinkling the two eggs in my hand against each other to the rhythm. They never made it into dadi’s home. The yolks had fused in the half-cracked shell and the whites were dripping down my legs. Some words are just like that. I don’t mean to break them. I mean to deliver.
But they’re too pudgy not to play with,
I force hyphens where they don’t belong.
My Hindi is still water in my veins.
I protect it against leaks
but every once
in a while, it drips
and leaves splashes in my eyes.
I rush to wipe my listener’s face
crowding them with more English.
They say, “Never mind”
I repeat “never, mind”
practicing them under my breath
these are English words too
I’ll need them someday.
Jitesh Jaggi is a poet, storyteller, and dancer. He is a two-time The Moth Story Slam winner and was featured on The Moth radio hour. He has performed Spoken Word poems in Mumbai, Paris, and Chicago. He loves writing bios because he can refer to himself in the third person.