We Speak Immigration

“English! It’s made up of all these untidy words, man. Have you noticed?
Native American (skunk), German (waltz), Danish (twerp), Latin (adolescent),
Scottish (feckless)…It’s a glorious wreck (a good old Viking word, that).
Glorious, I say, in all its shambling, mutable beauty. People daily speak
a quilt work of words, and continents and nations and tribes and even
enemies dance all over your mouth when you speak.”
—— Luis Alberto Urrea

Think about that: we speak immigration
every time we open our mouths and yet,

from these mouths we curse each other —
whites curse browns and blacks and we

whites are dangerous because we have
a deadly combination — fear and

power: economic, political, societal,
police -— our curse carries with it

the threat of death. With our white,
evangelical mouths we praise our tribal

god and curse our black, brown, red
and yellow brothers and sisters. With

our white mouths we curse in Native
American, German, Scandinavian, Latin,

Scottish, Spanish, Yiddish, Russian
and we shout, “Talk American, you skunk,

twerp, boy, girl, feckless wreck!” We
shout, “Dance for us,” while an inter-

national quilt of words brought by the
immigrants waltz off our tongues.

And our karma goes forth and soon
karma* will return.

*karma (n.)
1827, in Buddhism, the sum of a person’s actions in one life, which determines his form in the next; from Sanskrit karma “action, work, deed; fate,” related to Sanskrit krnoti, Avestan kerenaoiti “makes,” Old Persian kunautiy “he makes;” from PIE root *kwer- “to make, form” (see terato-). “Latterly adopted by Western popular ‘meditative’ groups” [OED, 1989]. It is related to the second element in Sanskrit.

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