Broken English

Broken English

Is language wounded by immigrants or bayonets?
Do singers or soldiers break your tongue?

My grandmother’s English broken
By accidents of history
Her father, blind, said get out
There’s nothing here
Stay and you’ll die
He saw clearly, and not just for himself

To America at fourteen, sixteen?
She was never sure of her age
Not just her language injured
Her cracked fish-eye in the wrong spot
Spine smashed like a Roman ruin
Yet her words were sharp
A grandson dreaming of the law
Became “the Senator”
He pulled off and stayed apart


Her constant job “cleaning the venetians”
Half-blind she scrubbed white blinds to shine
Each day she cooked, shopped and joked
Others might not understand yet
Her words plain to us
Chanting “Education is the best foundation”
As if it were a prayer

All her kids went to college
Grandma never learned to read or write
But like mothers anywhere, bird, insect
Human, did everything for her children
That speaks clearly