Thick Tongue by Aiko Fukuchi

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

They said it was poor English.
Impoverished is what I thought of when I heard them.
Impoverished for not reflecting all of the structures and colonial ideas of whiteness, of exploitation, competition.
It isn’t clean and polished in the way that people who teach grammar and English
classes want it to be.
They said poor and broken as in cracked
as in allowing light to shine through
as in allowing a Japanese base of language comprehension to soak in.
My father taught me a way of decolonizing language by speaking the way he spoke.
He taught me wordings and sentence structures that I felt embarrassed letting slip out in school growing up.
Without wanting to, he taught me ways of speaking English which suggested this wasn’t
my first language.
English that had been filtered through Japanese thought.
A Japanese way of speaking English that I tried to dilute and dissolve through memories
until now.
The way he taught me to speak and write is a way others often try to correct me on.
Japanese language is only important when it is being used to convey white thoughts to
its yellow people.
It does not stand as valuable on its own
with its own thoughts of its own people
unless it is bleached a little, lighted a little,
adapted and adjusted.

They call my tongue clunky.
They tell me I’d have to change this about myself if I every really wanted to become a

After years, I begin to tell myself that this would be what made me a writer.
My father’s english isn’t not that bad, It isn’t cute, sweet, naive or innocent.
It isn’t better than other immigrants you’ve met.
My father’s english is layered in memories and histories.
I won’t say broken is beautiful, because my father’s way of speaking English is not
broken, or subpar.
It is not poor in any sense.
It is rich and complex and weighted in thicker histories than white culture likes.
It’s more thoughtful than it is concise.
It takes its time.
It takes up more spaces than white dominance is willing to give to people like us.
It interacts with silence more actively than other forms of english do.
My father’s english is subtle and patient,
sometimes painful, sometimes weighted.
It is gratitude-filled, bold, considerate, harsh, and gentle at the same time.
It bleeds many thoughts between words.

Phot of Aiko Fukuchi

Phot of Aiko Fukuchi

Aiko Fukuchi is a writer and organizer currently living in Detroit, Michigan. Their writing is centered around the intersections of one's cultures, histories, identities, and traumas. They often explore these intersections within the context of their own lived experiences as a Japanese-American and transgender sexual assault survivor among other identities and experience of theirs. Their organizing work prioritizes the need for economic, racial, gender, and environmental justice.