Home > Art Feature > I heard my mother tongue today
Published: Sun Oct 1 2023
Eva Lin Fahey, Dreaming of the Mother Tongue (detail), 2021, watercolor and acrylic
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I heard my mother tongue today

I heard my mother tongue today, spoken from popsicle-red lips 
smiling up sheepishly and longing for more than I could ever find
to give, 不够 (bùgòu).

I know these lips, grew them cell by cell, watched them part and form 妈妈 (māmā).
Yet I never thought I'd hear those tones rise from the ground under our summer feet
with the grass shining red white blue.

I thought I’d carried nothing with me from the motherland, 
hands too small to grasp
the sounds,

and even though I cannot find you on our dying planet, I saw you today—
a milky mirage sparkling through the hottest hours of the year
in the voice I’ve woven from strands you left to soothe my sweaty beads of homesick.

Twenty-seven years have passed, 二十七 (èrshíqī), since gulls swooped down and ate 
the breadcrumb trail that stretched from me
to you. 

“Mama, I can count to googolplex.”       

“我不记得了” (wǒ bú jì-dé le).

The waters have risen. Oceans have grown over ashes. Houses crumble into the sea.  
Yet here held tightly in small hands, just big enough to grasp, I’ve found
you’ve found your way to me.


Next up in the portfolio: “Constellations” by Desiree Maru

Eva Lin Fahey (she/her) was born in Jingmen, China, during the One Child Policy. A transracial adoptee, she became a U.S. citizen at age three. A primarily water-based media artist, Fahey creates work that investigates her origins and the circumstances of other girls adopted from China, centering on themes of motherhood, intergenerational ties, and the East Asian diaspora. (updated 10/2023)

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