My Cornish grandfather spent his life in darkness. His days drilling for silver, his nights beside the radio. He ate his wife’s Finnish-made pasties that blackened from his touch. At home, he called us paskahousu, the only Finnish word we ever heard him speak. My grandmother said her language made us vulgar, so she gave us English instead. When we stubbed a toe, we whispered shit! but thought voi paska! We swore we wouldn’t curse with any tongue as she shooed us from her kitchen. Outside, we chased our shadows and collected blooming weeds that we pressed between pages of our dictionary. We covered ourselves in English so she wouldn’t hear our thick-shouldered language, our tie to what she’d left behind.
Jenne Knight’s poems, short non-fiction, and translations appear in Rust + Moth, Dead Housekeeping, The Citron Review, and Circumference, among others. She currently lives in Baltimore and teaches at Loyola University Maryland. www.jenneknight.com