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there are less than five true synonyms for the word 'body' in english

and let me tell you      none of them work   for me   

              this is no body   this is my wind

this is my movement            through space and


time      this is my poor attempt at keeping

             everything together    i love

my wife’s ocean    i swim in it     it keeps me


warm at night     it surrounds me    my grandmother

              circumlocates the pain    in her gai

to me   in the old tongue  so i can explain it   to the doctor


no not gaia  but i see how you could make that       mistake

             if you don’t know our tongue    we call a tongue

tziba     no no    not zebra     try again    tziba


come on     is english really the only language you speak?

               you only have one word        for ‘sky’?

only three for                      ‘mercy’?        how do you talk


about anything?   it rains   grandma on the phone says

               the breath weeps today  no    no  i don’t

mean breath        but how else           am i to tell you?


I reach for home

across two continents,

my wrists the rivers

Mississippi and Jamuna,


my mouth the Bengal 

Bay, body of water,

large as the country

it was named after,


my heart, half Atlantic

half Indian, slow 

draining into tributaries, 

my hands wanting so badly


to bridge home

and home-tongue.

How does a single cell

become the full body?


How do the catfish

and the ilish both know 

to swim upstream?


My two-tongued mouth:

one always asking

questions, one

always answering.

Nishat Ahmed is a Bangladeshi-American residing in the Midwest. He's the author of two chapbooks, lead singer of Ocean Glass, & avid lover of Fall Out Boy.

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