My Mother’s Tongue – A Four Poem Suite by CY Forrest


At that point I stopped.
                                           There was no name
                for each and every one of those dirty looks I was getting—
the shrug, the raised eyebrow.
My mother’s tongue had interrupted the flow,
                and the universe wasn’t holding its breath.
                                           Even so, on the first line, second stanza,
                                I was suddenly un-landed.
       Deciding whether we are interested in pursuing the work you
          there are certain aspects of your voice we are unable to

I was not waving
                but lying in a ditch I was digging for myself,
                                                             my mother’s tongue exposed.
                                Oh, the arrogance of this cur,
                                           the incongruity,
                querying a magazine in which you long to appear
                                           without even having
                                              bought a copy.
A knife through the heart
                                     was how my mother’s tongue
                                                                                               was described.
I basked in the shade of my common mistake,
                                                                                                  my caesura.
I wound it round my mother’s tongue
                                                                                and inflicted it on them.
                                         Maybe you could learn to
                            pronounce the letters in the English language
                                                  more lovingly—

                                                            as though I belonged in that room,
which I did not.

The Dream of the Giudecca Gate

i.m. Rosabella
  ‘The shul supplied the whisky. Whisky was a very important part of the
   Annual Meeting. Everybody was singing…We used to sing Ober
   Yiddisher zeider mir.’from 1909, the oral history, Stockport Jewish   
  Community by Claire Hilton, 1999
Against the back wall of a crowded harbour
                       hot sand met the volcanic rock of Etna—
                                                         I slept off a bottle of Nero d’Avola
                dreaming of everything an ice cold spring would give me.
I huddled down in the cave-like calm below ground
                                                    an olive tree in a square inch of light
stone seats of a former communal washroom
                                                      hollowed out by a thousand culos.
I dug further into the mountain
                            followed the sound of voices down
                                                                             an underground passage
a deserted shore
                      a towering white rock’s illuminated cross
                                                                            the clear luminous water
the Giudecca gate
                                      another harbour
                                                        for those who were invisible—
my great-great grandmother
                                   the seamstress of Daw Bank
                                         closer to me now than she ever was before.
The White Noise
‘That fondness for science, … that affability and condescension which
God shows to the learned, that promptitude with which he protects and
supports them in the elucidation of obscurities and in the removal of
difficulties, has encouraged me to compose a short work on calculating by
al-jabr and al-muqabala, confining it to what is easiest and most useful
in arithmetic.’—Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, the father of
I crossed a line in the sand
                                                 the divide
                                                                                          below which
my mother’s tongue made no sense to anybody.
What I learnt
                                                was unrelated
                                                                   to anything I’d already heard.
The white noise of my mother’s tongue was a language of
                                                                             haves and have-nots,
                                                                             noughts and crosses,
                                                                            binaries without soul.
I was lost and I drank.
                                                I assimilated—
                                                A new role in the white heat of technology.
I climbed aboard a blockchain-gang and became the machine.
I was Al-Khwārizmī’s algorithm,
                                        all brain and no brawn,
                                                                            dividing and conquering.
My day would start with a start-up in Beijing,
                                            a factory of toy soldiers that actually killed.
The doors swung open and I took off on their coat tails,
                                 linking arms with robots that shot down drones,
                     a safety measure should one go Westworld and destroy.
I jumped ship into the synapses of a brain without a body.
                            I pulled away to build a runway in India.
                        I worked through the night untangling nets in a harbour.
An oligarch used me to lever a Faberge egg from the British
                                                                                                  royal collection.
I was a nest egg of blood diamonds that glowed in the dark.
I was a formula
                                that worked at the heart
                                                                                    of all the best parties.
Endless strings of pearls were added to my name.
                            Tractors ploughed hedges between patchwork fields.
I flattened the African earth for maximum yield.
I funded a tantalum [1] shield for a professor of poetry
                                      who strung kites together
                                                                            to be struck by lightning.
A zoo with elephants was linked nose to tail.
              I hooked up lovers whose profiles were multiplying.
                                                        I was at the foot of a ladder to the sky.
I cancelled flights late into the night
                                 and helped a constellation of stars get organized.
I joined up the eyes of a driverless car.
                           I named automatons after inventors.
                        I was a part of something that never would be whole.
Knowing nothing of the future
                                      I worked because I knew
                                                                              nothing of the now.
       Now was a mystery
                                              like the lines in the sky
                                                                                                  between stars.
                          I named them: Deneb, Vega and Betelgeuse.
The earth was too small.
                                              It didn’t feature in any
                                                                                            unnamed constellations.
I was white space in an unwritten story
                         raw energy, a sacred persuader,
                                           hitched up to a train of dazzling satellites.
                      I hung a necklace on the moon that dimmed the stars
                                                                     asking ‘how do I conform?’

[1] *Tantalum is a conflict resource used in mobile phones, DVD players, video game systems and computers.


The stained concrete building
                                 for cars the size of match boxes
                                                                              stank of disinfectant.
Rum, brandy, sugar and cotton
                                          were keywords
                                                        in the underwater street names.
I walked across a glass footbridge connected to Doggerland
                                                                                                 by rust
The grumbling escalator went down to the murky depths
                                                                                          but not up.
The noise of open outcry on the ocean floor was
                                                                          deafening dolphins.
I paused at a bookshop listing categories and genres as yet
The scribbled recommendations told me all I needed to know
                                  what I’d learned so far was not worth knowing.
On the seabed
                         men in diving gear could have been my father
                                                                            if only he’d lived longer.
They’d massed their fortunes in Panama hats
                                    not far from where I held my breath
                                               wondering why no one
                                                                        searched closer to home.
                             I did not know those people
                                                            and I could not name them
                                         but I knew I was the child of mud larks—
kids who’d raced barrows up and down the sandbanks
                              carrying goods from the colonies into Doggerland.
My mother’s hair was dyed mauve.
                           Her black laced cardigan had spider webs
                                                                                             woven into the shoulders.
She was a survivor of the most destructive century of all
                                                                                and this was how she called me.

CY Forrest holds an MA in Creative and Life Writing, Goldsmiths, University of London. Trowbridge Stanza with Josephine Corcoran at Drawing Projects is his local poetry beacon, but he is also close to Wells. Both were active before CCOVID. He is a podcast producer. FrictionFiction was his longest running podcast. His website is and his twitter handle is Kit+Cy@cyforrestbooks.

His first full length collection What You Will See was first published by Gatto in 2006. He self-published it in 2019 with KDP. His writing credits include The Honest Ulsterman, The North, Iota, Skald (ed. poet Zoe Skoulding), Seam, Blade, Yorkshire Poetry Competition, Exeter Poetry Prize (judged by Selina Hill), Yellow Crane, Helicon, Aabye’s Baby, Krax, Sunk Island Publishing, Unruly Sun, Rivet, Lateral Moves, Ramraid Extraordinaire, The Affectionate Punch, Purple Patch, The Wide Skirt, Braquemard and the fabulously named Terrible Work.

Banner: Sanctuary, a digital collage by Robert Frede Kenter Tweets: @frede_kenter

1 thought on “My Mother’s Tongue – A Four Poem Suite by CY Forrest

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close