Death by/to Language

By Naomi Kim

The autopsy was inconclusive. Everyone on my team was stumped. Look, they said, crowding around her body on the table. What is this supposed to mean? There were words caught in her throat, all the way down, filling up her lungs, her stomach. Some of them weren’t even real words, or at least, they weren’t words in any existing language. I know—I was the one who checked. We fished each one out, letter by letter, and laid them out under the harsh fluorescent lights. It’s all gibberish, someone said with a snort. She was just nuts. But after everyone had left, I tiptoed back to take another look. I touched my own throat, where the words hummed and buzzed silently, insistently, like trapped bees. Words inexpressible, unknowable, stopping up my breath. My doctor had asked, when did your condition begin? I didn’t know. When we came here. When I learned English. I don’t know. I don’t know what I don’t know how to say.

Naomi Kim is an Asian American writer from south Georgia. Her writing has previously appeared in Lunch Ticket, LETTERS, Deep South Magazine, and Unbroken Journal. Korean is the language she learned first, but English is the language she now knows best.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Mixed Media)

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