Your lil Southun girl

I hear echoes of you
In the way my mind forms words
Before the English teacher censor
Gets hold of them and twists them
Into unfamiliar shapes
That have nothing to do with
The way we talk

It’s everything from words like waller
(“Wallow”, to Northerners)
To phrases like he done gone
And ain’t, of course, can’t forget that one
Along with I’m fixin’ to go to the store

These are the words that appear in my head
Ready to use, yet somehow never used
Because the English teachers were just too good
They created internal censors
So I can’t even speak my own language
My own birthright
Without a fight

I still remember as a child
Before the English teachers
Before speech therapy
Before all of that

I’d say something like the above phrases
And you’d laugh
You’d call me “My lil’ Southun girl”
I didn’t understand what you meant
This was just the way we talked
But I felt happy
Because it seemed to make you happy

One time a commercial came on the radio
A man sang the line,
“I work an honest day and I want an honest deal”
I heard
“I’m workin’ on a stand, I want an orange peel.”
I wasn’t so sure about the orange peel part
But I was certain about the first part:
“I’m workin’ on a stayyyy-and…”
(“I work an honest day and…”)
When you heard that
You laughed your ass off
And called me
Your lil’ Southun girl

And I still didn’t understand
Why you said this at seemingly random times
It was just the way I’d learned to talk
And the way I’d learned to listen
I learned from you
And my grandparents
And the radio
And I thought
This was just how people talked

All I know is
My brain uses these words and phrases
When it’s coming up with words to type
And then censors them
Before they can get to my hands

But until then
I’m fixin’ to do something about it
Talk however the words come out
Throw out the English teachers
On your behalf

Because I’ll love you

Your lil Southun girl

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