To the Phantom Jokes That Never Made It Out of My Mouth

[Read on HKS Talent Show on November 18th, 2016.]

Sometimes I wish people could understand /
just how funny I am in Indonesian (seriously) //

Sometimes I wish I could fill in /
those blanks of awkwardness /
in between conversations //
But the answer always arrived five seconds later /
because my brain was wearing /
this extra weight called ‘second language’ //

You wouldn’t believe just /
how fast I speak in Indonesian //
I mean, my parents got used to it eventually /
But at family gatherings annually /
My uncle would’ve reminded me to ‘slow down’ //
I wonder what he would say seeing /
how much I stutter one of these days //

Putting puzzle pieces together in every sentence, stuck /
In this obsolete excuse /
Called, “Oh there’s a word/phrase/expression for that in my language.” //

You know, there was a period when I was lost in denial //
“English couldn’t have been the problem /
After all, I’ve made it to HKS/
Practiced through dozens of books, hundreds of movies, and a lot /
I mean A LOT—of Netflix binge-watching.” //

But apparently, communication transcends beyond /
Carefully-picked words and /
Grammatically correct sentences //
It’s the—the subtexts hiding behind letters /
Everybody seems to see it but me //

It’s the unspoken diction /
References to fiction /
That sometimes I don’t reckon /
My introversion didn’t help either //

Don’t worry though /
While every day is a battle of ‘getting it right’ and ‘being funny’ /
It’s also a journey to the corners of my mind /
Learning parts of me I didn’t know existed //

It’s making peace with my anxieties /
and finally accepting that maybe it’s okay /
that people at HKS would never know /
how funny I am in Indonesian.


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