NaPoWriMo Day 3: Speaking Proper / by Shanelle Gabriel

He said "You talk proper"

And I knew the date was over

My tongue heavy with backlash and sarcasm

I threw my head back

And asked "What should I sound like?"

He said "You just talk proper"

Like my face didn't tell him

Shut the eff up the first time he said it

Like my cackle wasn't a warning

Telling him to put down his shovel

Nah, he dug deeper

"I talk proper?"

Am I missing gravel in my throat?

Does my voice not echo like sirens

And timbs against concrete?

Is my tone missing that

'Wifebeaters' and basketball shorts

Type of comfort

You're used to?

Do I not sound like a Brooklyn chick?

Do I not pop off

Do I not sound like I used to beat that block

Do I not sound like I be's the block

You know what, son?

Let me son you right quick, son.

Damn right, homie

I talks proper

Proper meaning the vernacular most applicable to the given situation and circumstance


When ah talkin to mi Trini massive dem

Mi say "Ah gon lime wit my padnas

Even wit Bernadette although she vex me so

An oh gawsh Kyle him look reaaaaal nice"

And I'll point with my lips like so

Tell me I talk proper

Tell me I talk proper 5 year old

If I know every toy's name on Doc Mcstuffins

My niece doesn't have to give me

A character breakdown for playtime

I sing Moana lullabies

Can tell her the launch codes

For rocket ships made of cardboard

I speak proper when I use things like flavors of ice cream

And other analogies

To define things like racism and sexism

In a way a child can understand

See homie,

Proper is based on situation, time and place

Not a tone assigned to one race

My use of linguistics

Is not a metric to measure the characteristics

Or skin color of people I keep in my space

So don't look me in my face

And tell me proper is not me

Like I'm not royalty

every word that flips off the tip of my tongue

Resounds perfectly

No I'm not bad & bougie

I'm bourgeois actually

Don't project your insecurities

About our educational inequalities

On me

Try to make me feel like an Oreo anomaly

Cause I know "White" folk

Who don't know

Half the multi syllabic words I know

And Black folk with labyrinthine vernacular that would show

The ignorance in your idea of who holds

The deed of authority to the rules of colloquy

Am I speaking with clarity

Do you need a dictionary

I do hope you feel I responded properly