“ESL” by Karen-Luz Sison1 min read

1 comment

Illustration by Katya Roxas

He tries so hard to prove himself—
Through every syllable, every word,
he enunciates slowly,
Pursuing excellence, perfection
but, the words refuse to cooperate with his work.

And so, he feels shame rising
over a language
he cannot control,
over turns of phrase
That turn on him.

for what he cannot help, he hates himself.

But, Father, every word of English you utter is
a note of pride for me.

Every rocky syllable
every grammatical misstep
is every plane ride
late-night job
and long-distance phone bill

every step you took to get here

every obstacle you had to overcome in this country
shows in the unique eloquence of your Taglish

my heart breaks when, after twenty years of being here,
you feel such shame for your accent,
for the rich layers of your Filipino identity wrapping
each word of English
—like lumpia, like suman.

Father—your accent is resilience, elasticity, legacy.
The constant presence of colonial English is the ruthless sea,
battering against the small ship of who you are.

and yet your Taglish shows,
much like the ancient islands of your birth,

you are still here.

Karen-Luz Sisonis a Filipina-Canadian writer based in Toronto. She’s passionate about intercultural experiences and dialogue and loves discovering stories through reporting, radio production, and creative writing. Her work has been published in the Globe and Mail and Living Hyphen, a literary journal showcasing the art of hyphenated Canadians.

Katya Roxas was born and raised in the Philippines.  Katya is well-versed with the sacrifices and opportunities that come with being an immigrant. Through her experiences, she strives to break the barriers of cultural misrepresentation by creating honest and inclusive visual expressions.


1 comment

DAVID VILLAVERA 12 August, 2019 - 4:41 am

Ms. Roxas’ illustration is dead-on. It is very well done. Thank you.


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