by Manuel A. Luna-Murray

You never lose your accent
no matter how long you’ve lived away
from the person you once were
and the place of all your memories
your storybook of love

If every man is an island
of thoughts and dreams and hopes
every single word that’s spoken
is a country all its own

Your accent is your citizenship
to your part of the world
where no passport is required
to come back home

As you’re daily reminded
of the roots shaping your history
your lifeblood and values

Your accent is your flavor
the pigment of your heritage of
father, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers
whose backbreaking work, cracked hands
and sweaty foreheads put food on the table
and a song of praise in your lips

The facial expressions and hand gestures
that make up your person are the gift of
your mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers
who toiled all day in the fields and all night in the home
to provide their children with equal rights and opportunities
in a world not worthy to call your ancestors
as one of their very own

Your accent is your shadow
a forerunner of things to come
as the relay race of new horizons
is passed on from generation to generation
in the beaming faces of proud parents
whose sacrifices have borne the ripe and mature fruit
of productive lives and strong character

So don’t hide your torch of freedom
beneath a language not your own
but fill the world with beauty
in the song of your mother tongue
as the identities embodied in your speech
reveal not an island or a country
but a Universe of triumph all of its own

For additional context and insights into this poem please read my accompanying essay titled Heritage: Streams of Consciouness… River Banks of Time. You can also read the related poem Embracing your Heritage.