Winner of the 2021 DISQUIET Prize for Poetry
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
At 21 I discovered that the word
had traveled farther than I had
finding its way into the mouths
of diasporic Caribbeans, unchanged
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.