Then I heard you call me from across the room,
and for a moment I didn’t recognize my name in your mouth.
I got the same feeling I did when a supply teacher would call my name for attendance.
I would legitimately not know the name she was calling was mine.
Those few moments before it registers, and you think of the name dressed in someone elses skin,
until you realize it was said in your direction,
and everyone looks at you like you’re the difficult one.
Like you should have understood and responded,
like its your fault for having such a difficult name.
Like your mother should have chosen your name out of baby book instead of out of the sky

Normally when people say my name it sounds like back home.
I can almost smell the red clay sand and okra grilling.
But this time,
it smelt like an airport detainee room,
like the deportee seat on an airplane,
like coast guards, slave work and organic fruits and vegetables.
It smelt like refugee camps and civil war.
And I saw you for a moment with such clarity.
You didn’t say my name with the depth it deserved,
and the apology that it needed to sound familiar.
You said it like there was a unpaid debt there.
Like Liberia and Sudan still don’t bleed
like St.Vincent hasn’t been selling itself for tourism,
Like Mi’kmaq first nations people still aren’t pulling pins from their tongues trying to learn their own language.

I tried to make you repeat it,
I thought maybe you forgot who I was for a moment.
Maybe in this crowded room you lost yourself between the tequila stained ikea couches and the door.
But you called my name again,
this time your mouth dug a flag into it,
you claimed it, like your people claimed the moon, mispronounced it and washed it in bleach.
You turned it into an anglophone jungle gym,
and spat it out.
Then you smiled slyly and said
“I’ll never get it right”
Like there was ever a choice.

Key Ballah (via keywrites)