Poem for the Last Generation Holding on to a World in which They Were Still the Majority

Right now there's a difference of only 15 million
             between the number 1 ranked language
(English) and number 2 (Mandarin Chinese)
             spoken by the most number of people
in the world. There will probably be new 
            programs like TCFL (Teaching Chinese 
as a Foreign Language); and eventually, 
            though a little farther down the road,
TIFL (Teaching Ilocano as a Foreign Language).
            When we were taught the story of Adam 
and Eve in the garden, we already knew 
            about  áhas— snakes that could at least 
be trusted to keep rodents away from the crops. 
            The world was only one sea and one sky
when a bird split a bamboo in half; Malakas 
            and Maganda stepped out at the same
time, which is possibly why they share the non- 
            gender specific pronoun siya. Census figures 
predict that by 2050, nonwhites will be the majority
            in America and Europe. Still, given how long  
you've lorded it over so much in history, I don't think
            English will completely disappear into some 
great marble mausoleum in the cemetery of dead 
           languages. But by then the rest of the world
will have come to more deeply appreciate  
            among other things the resonance of a science 
whose name for the universe is máyaw, which
            in Tagalog  also means harmony. Who 
could have foreseen how ube would become 
            the ubiquitous color of sliced bread; or how 
the richness of our poetries could finally be 
           acknowledged for what they've always been? 
Makahiya, sampaguita, dama de noche,  ylang-
           ylang, champaka; uwak, kuwago, loro, 
kalapati, agila—all such names for flora 
           and fauna could easily fill up codices. You 
still don't seem to know what you're missing.   




(after "Poem to the First Generation of People to Exist 
after the Death of the English Language")

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