When I think of mother tongue, I think of mother. When I think of home, I think of the spaces and faces I leave and seek. I have lost language and punctuation in the process. In this white space, I have reclaimed a version of the loss in a language that wasn’t always mine.

because they didn’t believe her howls
and feet clawing craters on the cement floor
of the missionary hospital
my mother tried twice to bring me into the world

because I leave my mother four times seven seas away
at the airport, vermillion, yogurt, and sugar
mixed rice on her forehead
pull my alphabets like grain
क ख ग घ ङ्

because the first leaving, I don’t bring poems in my two 50 kg suitcases
and lose the scent of sweat in my mother’s neck in the transit at Frankfurt
two German women give me hard candy to halt my hiccups

because I leave my adolescence on the shelf
the epics, lyric stories shabdakosh, the word treasury
I bought after three years of lunch money
and loose change, reward for good grades
a girl worried about cash packs food that won’t spoil
when she wants hard cover

because I read what I can remember, verses in my eyelids in the plane
straight lines | that punctuate | stay home | like bricks | on my | favorite lane |
now I have to stop in dots that have spaces before and after
there is room, but always foreign, like people I won’t touch
even for a handshake for months
words don’t fill themselves around me . . .

because a language on the tip of my tongue leaves with autumn wind

Anuja Ghimire (Twitter @GhimireAnuja) writes poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction. She is the author of two poetry books in Nepali: Ankur and Arthaat. She recently published a poetry chapbook in English: Kathmandu (Unsolicited Press, 2020). Her poetry chapbook  fable-weavers is forthcoming from ethel-zine in fall of 2022. Her poems and essays have been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes. She works as a senior publisher in an online testing company. She reads poetry for Up the Staircase Quarterly. She enjoys teaching poetry to children in summer camps. Her work found home in print and online journals and anthologies in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Scotland, and Australia. She lives near Dallas, Texas with her husband and two children.