The tongues my ancestors chopped off,

To kiss my mouths – of past lives and now,

Are rendered speechless, 

Witnessing the bloodbath. 


zeha vs colonialism.


Shoving me to my knees, slitting my lips to part them in halves of half.

They pulled my tongue out and tied it with a white rope. They thought I surrendered. 

This is the mark of death. 

My saliva drips to the very land that birthed it.

I know.

I just know that my ancestors are crying.

through my body, bones, mind and blood.


“Orang putih memang sial.” 


I housed a language that stole other languages.

The thoughts that reside in this mind is in the language of the whites.

These feelings I have,

Aren’t truly mine,

If the tongue I use to taste it,

Is robbed and replaced.


Malay is obscure, gender-neutral and very forgiving to me.

While the whites thrived in the binary of ‘daughters’ and ‘sons’,

Malay settled with ‘anak’. 


While our tongues tangle in trying to accommodate to he/him, she/her, they/them,

Malay calls me by ‘Dia’. 


The questions that come to Malay

Isn’t confusions of tenses.


Malay is so easy.

And yet, 

I fumble with finding emotions in it. 


You have nuances in English,

That Malay simply does not have the time for.


We do not talk of feelings in this house.

We do not talk of feelings in this home.

We do not have the nuances of house vs home.


We have ‘rumah’.


And if rumah is all we have,

then i will make a bumbung for it,

find a way to slot my makcik’s perasaan into my lidah.

maybe reconcile with her still mourning my mum’s death,

find a way to tell her, i am still traumatized from having to wake my dead mother up at 10 years old.

that maybe, i don’t want to talk about it  not because i don’t care but because everytime she says ‘rosna’,

i feel her tender cold arm.


It’s hard to tell her this.

don’t you see?

we both have sadness before we have patience.

to hear each other out.

to let our emotions be known to each other.


we were taught that feeling, is a liability.

that being apologetic is a negotiation to stay alive,

that being angry will only get you killed.


too many of my ancestors’ tongues have been chopped off 

for me to not say this.


Orang putih memang sial.

Orang putih memang sial for colonizing these tongues of mine,

i’m not able to talk of my feelings,

in my mother’s language. 

it is because of orang putih that we will always have anger for each other,

that can never be solved 

because we both stopped breathing,

because she, is,  already dead,

and because i am better off dead,

than telling her that i am gay. 

because she hates - because she hated the whites,

and being gay is synonymous to whiteness, 

to her, that if it doesn’t have a proper word in malay, and no, homoseksual does not count, then it is a form of colonization, that it is western, that i’m not being true to malay. 

and if i’m gay,

i’m illegitimate, the heaven’s doors will always be closed for me.

they’ll pull my tongue out and tie a white rope to force it into binary.

they’ll say  i surrendered.

biar putih tulang, jangan putih mata, ibu.  

we’re fighting the same fight on different sides

ibu, you know that i would fight your corner right?

ibu, this isn’t zeha vs colonialism anymore,

if you would just liste-

“nanti apa orang kata” will always be the noose around my neck.

but ibu, cakap siang pandang-pandang, cakap malam dengar-dengar. 

apa orang cakap, zeha tak kisah.

ibu, too many of our ancestors have had their tongues chopped off.

ibu, too many of times, we are forced to just listen to what people say.

ibu, why don’t you ever listen to what i say?

zeha, why don’t you ever listen to what i say?

ibu, i am speaking.

ibu, i know you are scared of hearing malay voices,

because all the malay voices you have listened to in your past lives were killed.

ibu, i’m willing to die if it meant i can be heard.

ibu, this is the mark of death.

Rumahku Lidahku

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