Broken English

Sometimes the English is broken

and I don’t fix it.

Like the bone that snapped

after a misplaced step sent her tumbling.

It left the elbow at an angle

it was not designed to hold.

The joint that healed

(while she lay in the camp for the displaced)

grew too much cartilage,

and is stronger now

in that broken place.


Sometimes the English is broken

and I leave it.

Like the cracked glass with shards

refracting more rainbow

than the pane could ever hold.


Sometimes the English is broken

and I sit with it.

Listen to its song.

She has taken the time to

hold another’s tongue

in her mouth. Felt it sit

like a slug at the back of her teeth,

but did not vomit.

Held it in place. Held her breath,

exhaled, and let the words out

for the others who could not come.


Sometimes the English is broken

and I look,

pin the impulse to fix frayed edges.

The visible stitches are his;

disappearing words hastily sewn

before they evaporate.

This skill, the last echo

of a previous life as tailor, mending men.


Sometimes the English is broken

and I watch it

plod across the page

with a forthright grace

part pidgin, part Shakespeare;

mis/spelling his name in 50 ways.

Creating words that live for generations

longer than the word he meant to write.

Forming worlds in those broken places

to fill the holes the careless do not see.


It may, at times, be necessary

to reword, reorder, to switch or tack

for the sake of clarity in communication.

But hold the urge to reconstruct.

Darning is for socks.

Repair for furniture, bones and cars.

Stitches for skin and fabric;

mending is for objects more solid than the soul

that travels in language.

Sometimes we must let the English be broken.

— By Juliana Mensah