Issue 9, Spring 2019

Collection of Poetry from Betyna Bock

By Betyna Bock

My Mother Tongue

My mother tongue lies dormant,
shipwrecked in dark childhood memories
like a water damaged diary
of a past traveller.

Once I spoke this language well,
a fluent pre-schooler,
tossing nouns and adjectives in the air
like a juggler.

Now with each word
stuck in my gut,
and painful childhood memorabilia.
Dolls without arms,
ripped up nursery rhyme books,
and tea sets splattered with paint.

If I was to recover those familiar sounds
I would be back
in my kindergarten world.
A confused four year old girl
speaking the wrong language.
eating the wrong food,
twisting my tongue around
new declensions,
watching the native born
peanut butter sandwich kids.

And me sitting nervously in a corner,
plastic lunch box on my lap,
nibbling toasted cottage cheese sandwiches.
While all the others
ate Kraft cheese slices and Vegemite
on white bread from brown paper bags.

I wanted to be
one of this fair freckled set.
Wearing no shoes in the playground,
leaping over gym benches
like carefree mountain goats,
with calm mothers
who only knew one language.

-Betyna Bock c.2018


When I was growing up
my mother was always losing
her reading glasses.

And I was always finding them
under last week’s newspapers
or next to the coffee stained
postcards from overseas.

On the cluttered dining table,
she would cut out patterns.
She then wrestled with sleeves and bodices
that turned into misplaced continents.

With the rattly old Singer sewing machine
she stitched and unstitched
crushed velvet sleeves and uneven hems
into cocktail dresses for the opera.

At night she was transported
back to pre War Prague,
tenderly touching
the black and white sepia photographs
of her mother and sister.
Date of death unknown.

After she went to bed,
I packed away
the scissors and pins.
And tried to put
her threads back together.

-Betyna Bock c.2018

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