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Which is First?

I wonder what my ancestors would think

of me becoming an English teacher

or of me falling in love with English so hard

that it’s the language I write poetry in

I wonder what the words I keep rhythm with would sound like

if I prioritized what came first

Can a first language still be first

if it is the third I reach for?

Is my first language

the lead in my dreams,

or the shape my tongue took to annunciate my first words?

The next time I am hesitant to tick off English as my first language,

I want to be hooked to a polygraph;

I want to know what internal truth my pulse will tell

For my first three years,

it didn’t matter that my francophone neighbour in my anglophone suburb

didn’t understand the rapid Italian coming out of

a toddler with no shortage of passionate sentence fragments

No one holds this book open for long enough anymore

to spot the moment where, mid-sentence,

I switch from the language of my family

to the language of the place I was born into

And a boy I met in Australia told me

it was confusing to hear me pronounce my Italian name

in a Canadian accent

Now, I look for the beginnings of myself in a language app, and

I can’t tell if Google translate is a step ladder or a crutch,

but eff it, I think if I wrote poetry in Italian

it would sound something like this:

So che l'ultima volta che ci siamo visti

stavo piccola e tu stave il mio mondo

Perché anche quando stavo una bambina,

avere parole mi ha fatto sentire grande

Lo so che sono crescuito alla luce

di un’altra lingua

Pero guarde, in adesso momento siamo insieme

Non dirmi che non è bello

essere di nuovo il prodotto delle miei espiri

If Italian was still my go-to,

it may have sounded a little like that,

minus the apologetic tone,

minus the pleading with it to stay back

As an English teacher and spoken word artist, Lucia (Lu-chi-a) De Luca plays with stories in the classroom and on the mic. Her poetry often nods to past versions of herself or centers around her family and Italian heritage. Lucia was a finalist at the 2021 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam, and in 2020, as a member of Mcsway Poetry Collective, she organized McGill University's first-ever slam. Her work is published to the TEDx and Bankstown Poetry Slam YouTube channels, and in Pace Magazine, Baby Teeth Journal, and Yolk Literary Journal. She is currently pursuing an M. A. in Educational Leadership at McGill University.

Photo by Pratap Singh

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