Topaz Winters

Every Day the Same Story About Immigrants

How their tongues curl around the bitterest 

language. How they wake in a futureless country 
& shrink-wrap it. Swallow it to possess it. I know 
this story by heart, by which I mean what kind of 
daughter am I if I don’t: my grandparents & their 
plane tickets to a place too big for its maps. The 
accents they worked so hard to scrub from their 
tongues—&, the way they tell it now, this being 
less an act of violence & more one of desire. 
My father in his teenage years thinking America
America America 
like a redemption, a communion. 
& here, now, me sitting at the dinner table, eating 
roti prata, aloo curry, listening to this story instead 
of living it. A white girl comments, offhand, how 
surprised she was to find I have no accent & I have 
to stop myself from snapping it’s an American 
accent. That’s not the same thing. 
It must be nice,
so easily renaming a saviour into nothingness. 
Even now my fury is the spitting image of my 
father’s, but unlike him, I have no right to it. He 
has fought every day of his life for this brilliant 
voiceless language, this country as a brand of fire 
he wields proudly, generously. I sit, my bloodright 
in three different timezones. Listen to my grandparents
sing Tamil jokes across the table, accents arrowed &
twisting around distance. I’ve heard this story again 
& again, geometric in the face of shapelessness. 
One moment my grandmother, working beyond 
recognition, disaster discarded on her tongue. 
Boarding a flight for the first time. Learning 
English because how else will America understand 
her love letters. The next she reaches across the 
table to pass me the dish of okra, whispering a 
Tamil joke I only half understand & love anyway. 
A prayer I can wear out loud, a wound I can salt 
into keeping: this is how we tell our stories, keep 
our promises. Become again to the sound of
our languages melting into dusk.

Topaz Winters is a Singaporean-American literature & film student at Princeton University. You may also know her as an award-winning & internationally-acclaimed writer, actress, editor, speaker, scholar, & multidisciplinary artist.