Do I have the right to pronounce my name correctly in a language I do not speak? | Mila Tomizuka

1 min read

2023 Hattie Lockett Award Winner

That which I call myself by any other name
would not remember my cheeks blistering,
tripping to the front of the classroom when
Mrs. Blonde and Blue tripped over my Z,

my Z which puckers lips like the
pickled umeboshi Grandpa hid inside
rice, wrapped with nori and brought us
packed in plastic Costco apple crates
because they fit inside well enough,

well enough like how computers underline
my name in little red dots until I acquiesce.
I was slurping soba before it was cool but
now, blonde white and blue study my Z in
hiragana, katakana, and kanji, tell me

you don’t look like it,

tell me it’s a shame I can’t write my name,


My cheeks blister when I say my name,
wrong like always, with Grandma’s
laaahng Chee-caaah-go a’s,

when I say I called him Grandpa,
not Oji-san.

Mila Tomizuka (she/her) is a poet and multimedia artist from Tucson, Arizona pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Creative Writing and Spatial Design. She can be found ignoring the fact that it is impossible to be good at everything and sermonizing on how sleep is a waste of time.