vernacular by Cantrice Janelle Penn

“we ain’t got but the one remote.” / “on n’a qu’une zapette.”
my father shakes his head at me, tight-lipped
as i pull out a grid of lit rubber buttons
from the squishy space between the couch and my two back pockets
the channel flips
Dan Rather’s straight-faced evening news stream, tight-lipped // an old Bonanza re-run
both, Dad’s favorites. 

me, the kid who jumped to the next section of the french
textbook that the teacher hadn’t even assigned yet
secret solo language trysts, tongue
curling expanding
against the walls
             my mouth
in another language. 

tomato mayonnaise salt pepper on white bread
sweet potato aluminum foil 350 degrees at 45 minutes
“gone and get you a plate.” / “vas t’y chercher un plat.” 
the Blue Ridge Mountain chain wraps around my father’s words
freight minimum wage assembly line
the big city pull, they say
but this is another kind of Virginia City
the kind my father
in the

river // bed




where                     we                      wade.

Contributor Notes

Cantrice Janelle Penn is a queer Black writer, decolonial copy editor, linguist, and artist whose upbringing was shaped by forked tongues, lottery dream books, and the steady waters of the Powhatan River in Shocquohocan. Cantrice is kinda into Instagram