Journey back

Originally published under Journey back to language in Westerly: Flux, October 2017. #ChangeTheDate


I don’t know how to walk back
into language the same way I walk
back onto country. But I try anyway.
I step barefoot over flat, dry plains.
Spirits circulate the earth, singing songs
of strength and resilience in a familiar
language I do not know. I strip the confines
of the English narrative. Bathe myself
in the words of ancestors.

I peel away my flesh. Stretch it out.
Use it as parchment. Write disjointed
sentences with pointed toes dipped
in blood. I dissemble my ribcage
and carve words into the bone. I curl
the letters around my withered tongue
until they crack and break my teeth.
I write until I’m unrecognisable.

When I press my ribs back in place,
I feel the words embedded in the bone,
so close to my beating heart. I slide
back into my skin. The words
of ancestors wrap around me, warming
my skeleton. My flesh is loose, stretched
far too thin. But it feels less foreign
than it did before. I sew my body back
together, admiring the scars left behind –
each stitch soaking into my skin.

I pick myself up and stand on wobbly legs.
I teach myself to walk again. To speak.
To cry. Spirits circulate the earth,
singing songs of strength and resilience
in a familiar language I do not know.
They give me a courage a didn’t know I possessed,
pushing me forth into the world, reborn.
I do not know how to walk back into language
the same way I walk back onto country.
But I’m learning.

Raelee Lancaster