Heirloom, Third Place in Poetry


by Masfi Khan


you are ten when a teacher says to untie
your bengali accent like an iron necklace.
you dream of a voice that slices oceans
like wind. of being an autumn-crisp american,
even if it means silencing the pulse
you’ve carried since birth.
you unhinge slanted vowels, punctured
consonants, swinging cadence from your larynx.
lodge borrowed syllables in their places.
bangla tumbles out of your mouth like baby teeth.
you translate bleeding gums as maturity,
instead of your history withering into a speck.
your first month in america, your mother
kept warm by humming bangla songs.
her voice dripped with superstition-strung folktales,
during monsoons. day by day, her ache
for the self left behind swelled like a ghost.
your last name traces its lineage to ancestors
ancient before colonization.
you can’t wrench your mother tongue by its roots
without erasing yourself.
in a country where nothing belongs to you,
bangla is an heirloom, sacred and tender.
let it seep into your journey
from dhaka to new york & beyond.
these days, you dream your mother still croons,
her homeland engraved on skin.
you cling to her lilt like air.