Naturalization Test

CAS for Database

Claudia Ann Seaman Award

Dana Blatte

Sharon, Massachusetts, USA

Sharon High School

Poetry

Once the sun bows down, we start killing

                time. Lazily at first, then urgent, as if we know


we are stillborn, still birthing, always falling short

                of a massacre. When I say, Tell me the meaning


of citizenship, I know you keep a dictionary

                beneath your pillow, navigate English


by the withering of it from your tongue. My words

                do not dry with so much blood-


lessness. I scooped my vowels out,

                 called it a lesson in speech therapy:


the ease of my language becoming

                 a weapon. Here, I will find my own


nation. I will mangle border upon border

               on my skin: skirmish, body, war.


We are always failing at our peace. The storm

                learns our violence, weeping tell me


how you got your scars. We say,

                a man holds a woman


like a gun. The moon turns a blind eye:

               at night, everything is urgent. I mourn


our boundaries. I did not coax my language into

               war just to lose


my image in your speech. We are no longer fledgling:

               there are your sounds, and there are mine. Sovereign,


even if we do not want to admit how to accept

               defeat. The color of the dawn waxes


against my teeth. It gushes, fertile. I am still my own

                nation, newborn, now bearing a gun. Lazily


at first, then arid, hostile. Tell me, you wanted this,

               and with want, there will always be blood.

EDITORIAL PRAISE

In “Naturalization Test,” the process of citizenship is visceral, violent. Through captivatingly lyrical language, the author seamlessly intertwines razor-sharp images — guns, blood, war — with the pain of loss, a giving over of one’s language. The poem weaves an aching portrait of searching for identity in a nation undone and wracked with contrasts.

Editorial Praise from Tara Betts, Poetry Judge:
In "Naturalization Test," the speaker struggles with the violence of learning another language. The pacing of these couplets takes its time and arrives at a declaration of bloodletting as it concludes, even though the speaker is miraculously still intact. This poem can speak to a lot of people about what it means to be and become American.

Dana Blatte is a high school student from Massachusetts. Her work is published in Fractured Lit, The Shore, Peach Magazine, and more. She is a 2021 student in The Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship, the Iowa Young Writers' Workshop, and Alpha, The Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop for Young Writers. Besides writing, she loves linguistics, bedroom pop, and honey almond butter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Poetry, Winner