NaPoWriMo 2022, Day 23: Native Tongue

Native Tongue

Native Tongue

I’ve lived my life
in another country.
I haven’t learned
its language.
I’d have to search
for a person
to speak it to,
and all they want
to hear from me
is Goodbye.

Étienne de Veniard,
French deserter and smuggler,
was my adopted
birth country’s first recorded
European immigrant.
Married to a woman
of the Missouria,
he fought alongside
the Osage and Algonquin
against the Fox,
traded with many nations,
almost certainly spoke,
at least a little,
the local tongues.

After he married
a French woman
and later left
his Native wife
and their son,
after he double-crossed
and killed Pawnee
trading partners,
after he wrote a book
about his travels,
he returned to France
a hero, was made
a nobleman.
His Missouria wife
(whose name no one
troubles to mention)
accompanied a delegation
of tribal chiefs
to Paris for a visit.
She was listed
as a servant.

Étienne de Veniard,
bigamist, deserter, smuggler,
cartographer, killer, nobleman,
spoke many languages,
but was especially fluent
in Goodbye.

— Carl Bettis