softly by the river you say daisuki, then

i love you, a shade thicker

in my language of birth.


your eyes are ikura, glimmering still-

borns under streetlamp gaze. how much,

you seem to ask, the cost of a blush. i


don’t know. the river is so long. a bite

into your hamuba-ga- lips drips an affection

my tongue catches. affekushen, i say,


a crying lady. the bridge is far ahead, pressed

between loaves of loving

and loathing the river's rind. ra-bu, is a crossroad


in time. ra-bu, is what we rename

our lives with. ai ra-bu yu-, ra-bu my skin away, ra-bu-

o-li, grains steeped in foreign tongues.


the flavours burst with the wind. the makuro-ru

are with the waves, unsure

of what to become. we stop to kiss.

Learning a language is like layering a cake—the more you learn, the more you have to chew through words to get their various meanings. I am currently learning five languages. I am also dating a Japanese. From my exposure to various languages, my words (in English) gradually start to adopt new meanings. Potato, for instance, I now see as Pot / ato—a type of kitchenware and ato, Japanese for afterwards. Hamburger, I pronounce as hamu-ba-ga-, the conventional Japanese way of drawing out their words, blunting sharp sounds, savouring their meaning. Affekushen, is affe / kushen, where ku shen is Chinese for a crying sound. The English language, which I have based my identity on, is now shaky ground.