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A Poem by Jitesh Jaggi

Immigrant Quotient

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

“copious” splat

Some often surprise me

by bouncing back

especially “worth”.

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.

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