PAD 2020 – Day 22

Tried out today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asking for a poem that engages with different languages and cultures through the lens of proverbs and idiomatic phrases. Because one of my jobs is teaching English to adult Japanese learners, I chose a Japanese phrase, and its opposite: kuchi ga omoi (one’s mouth is heavy) and kuchi ga kurui (one’s mouth is light).


Heavy Mouth


Katsuya explains that when it comes to talking politics

he’s been taught to keep a heavy mouth: kuchi ga omoi.

In English, we say tight-lipped I explain,

internally thinking how today’s lesson is really for me.

A chance to weigh the things I’m prone to say.

How often do my heavy thoughts

slip from a mouth that’s too light?


Closeup of woman's mouth


poem: Language Lesson

Today’s Poetic Asides prompt was to write a poem about some aspect of learning. The wonders of technology allow me to work part-time tutoring Japanese adults in English. Their dedication, brilliance and modesty amazes me, as does the constant reminder that words are not the only way to communicate.


Language Lesson


Takashi says he needs practice.

He’s not always sure which verb to grasp.

Certain nouns still stumble on their

trip from temporal lobe to tongue.


I have to learn much before I am happy to speak.

He offers with smiling apology. Eagerness.

Too humble to mention the ocean of words

he’s already tread to come this far.


I explain the myriad ways the meanings flow,

the ripples and waves of tone,

the depths that even those of us born in the water

rarely dare to plunge.


English is a bewildering language.

I say, then wince at my own adjective.

If the vocabulary is new to him, he doesn’t say.

Just makes a sound I can’t spell.

Still it flies, through air, time, across the Pacific,

an utterance with no etymology,

telling every ear willing to listen

I understand.