When English was a shore I hadn’t reached
I tried to speak underwater
my clumsy language warbling under the current
my tongue weighed down by seashells.
This is before I learned how to swim
with my shame. Before the color blue
existed in my mouth & before breath.
When I found language she was an old woman
sitting by the cliff. She knew every fish alive
& her hair was made of sounds I’ve never heard.
She taught me slowly how to shape letters
out of memory. I followed language
& sometimes we just cried together under the waves
watching blue whales give birth. Giant children
made their first sounds. I want to sound
like that speaking English. She said, you can.
Tell a story while you’re drowning. It doesn’t need
to ever reach the shore. A mouth does not need
perfect language to speak, to be yours.
You’re allowed to just breathe
Angel Leal is a Latinx, trans/nonbinary writer whose poems have appeared in Strange Horizons, Heartlines Spec, The Deadlands, Solarpunk Magazine, and elsewhere. They’ve been nominated for the Utopia Award, the Pushcart Prize, and are a co-admin of CALAMITOUS, a queer sci-fi and fantasy writing group. You can find them at angel-leal.com or floating around Twitter @orbiting_angel