Dey

Winner of the 2021 DISQUIET Prize for Poetry

By STEPHANIE DINSAE

 

The pidgin form of ‘to be’1 

A young child, I was privy to hearing this word
in my household, around my uncle and his friends 
reminiscent of his schoolboy youth.
A part of a pidgin I could never participate in
for fear that the broken English might
have too much of an essence, might
tarnish my own English.
They would not let me code switch
thinking the pidgin would overtake me

Dey

           ‘To be’ 
At 21 I discovered that the word
had traveled farther than I had
finding its way into the mouths
of diasporic Caribbeans, unchanged
meaning untouched
and maybe that’s why they never let me
use it because they knew of its
lasting power, knew how a mouth could
store it in its crevice for generations
knew how a word could be a tool for survival
maybe they did not want me to know
what the brokenness really meant

  

  

Stephanie Dinsae is a poet and Black classicist from the Bronx. She is a recent Smith College graduate and recently finished the last year of her poetry MFA program at Columbia University. Stephanie is dedicated to exploring the intersections of Greco-Roman mythology and Blackness through her poetry. Her favorite things to do are dance around to music and obsess over astrology. In case you were wondering, Steph has major Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius placements.

[Purchase Issue 22 here.]


Footnotes

1https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/nigerian-pidgin-words-phrases

Dey

Related Posts

scene of ocean with sun reflecting down on water

Negotiating Fluidity

BRIDGET A. LYONS
My customary visual bearings don’t seem to be serving me here in Alice’s Arctic Wonderland, where even the most fundamental rules of spatial arrangement have been upended. I see liquid lying over land, tundra hovering in midair, and chunks of ice floating several feet above the sea.

Image of Priyanka Sacheti's headshot and the Issue 22 cover (light blue background and pink-peach seashell).

Podcast: Priyanka Sacheti on “Oman is Mars: An Alien All Along”

PRIYANKA SACHETI
Priyanka Sacheti speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “Oman is Mars: An Alien All Along,” which appears in a portfolio of writing from the Arabian Gulf, in The Common’s fall issue. In this conversation, Priyanka talks about her feeling of not belonging anywhere—born in Australia to an Indian family, but growing up in Oman as a third culture kid.

blackbird upon a puddle

Translation: Poetry by Esther Ramón

ESTHER RAMÓN
Two of those brief animals / that populated the branches / and the furniture made useless / by humidity and neglect. / They were separated / From time that burns as it passes, / from this insignificance, / from the feeding cycle, / my desires in the shredded remains