Language as a Wall

I said “äiti,” which starts with a diphthong that sounds a bit
like a drunk friend’s hello and ends with a terse request for tea.

You said “mother” or “mom,” perhaps “mama,”
a sweet mumble, easy enough for a child to pronounce.

I liked that I knew the difference and you did not;
it seemed just that I had this, at least.
Everything else—the price of a school lunch,
American boys, MTV, made more sense to you
than it did to me.

When you came to my house for a sleepover,
I resented whatever you might have thought about
our furniture, our food,
assuming it was somehow colored by
what you knew I did not know.

I felt some satisfaction, watching you look
back and forth between me and my mom,
when I brought up the partition of language around myself.
I’m sorry now, for how much I liked to make you think
I was talking about you, even when I wasn’t.