Tag Archives: cultural outlooks

Swear Words

I’ve been wanting to resort to swear words all week. Here are two good poems to help you deal with whatever is frustrating and they are great as mood setters for any upcoming time with family.

Swear Words                                          Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Even now I laugh when I see the look on my mother’s face
when I swear in Tagalog. I have no idea what these phrases
really mean, but they’ve been spattered on me since I was still
a fat, bawling baby—and scattered onto my head when I’ve toppled

juice glasses on white carpet or come home past curfew.
Sometimes even the length of my skirt or driving her through
a red light produces ones with a bit of a gasp, a wet sigh
of disapproval. Now I catch myself saying them out loud

when I knock my knee against the coffee table,
slice a bit of my knuckle with paper. When I asked her,
she told me one phrase meant ‘God,’ so of course I feel guilty.
Another is ‘crazy female lost piglet,’ which doesn’t even

make sense when I think of the times I’ve heard her use that,
and still others, she claims, are untranslatable. But the one
I love best is Diablo—devil—pronounced: Jah-blew! She uses it
as if to tell me, “I give up! You do what you want but don’t

come running to me,” after I tell her I bounced a check
or messed up a romance with a boy she finally approved of.
Diablo! Diablo! Here comes a little red devil, tiny pitchfork
in hand, running past the terra-cotta flower pots

in my mother’s sun room Diablo! Diablo! And still another from behind
the kitchen curtains, a bit damp from the day’s splashes of the sink.
Today when they meet, they dance a silly jig on the countertop, knock
over the canister of flour, leave little footprints all over the place.

Hell Pig                                       Aimee Nezhukumatathil


To keep me from staying out late at night,

my mother warned of the Hell Pig. Black and full


of hot drool, eyes the color of a lung—it’d follow me

home if I stayed past my curfew. How to tell my friends


to press Pause in the middle of a video, say their good-byes

while I shuffled up the stairs and into my father’s waiting


blue car? How to explain this to my dates, whisper

why we could not finish this dance? It’s not like the pig


had any special powers or could take a tiny bite

from my leg—only assurances that it was simply


scandal to be followed home. When my date and I

pull into my driveway and dim the lights, we take


care to make all the small noises that get made

in times like these even smaller: squeaks in the seats,


a slow spin of the radio dial, the silver click of my belt.

Too late. A single black hair flickers awake the ear


of the dark animal waiting for me at the end of the walk.

My fumbling of keys and various straps a wild dance


to the door—the pig grunting in tune to each hurried step, each

of his wet breaths puffing into tiny clouds, a small storm brewing.


Writing Prompts:

Do you have a favorite swear word(s)? Are there swear words particular to your family?

Write about someone trying to hide scandalous behavior from someone else.

Write about curfews a person, a town, or region that has a curfew.

Write about something that lurks in the shadow. If you like anthropomorphize it.

Write about someone who would dance if you got into trouble.

Write about preparing to spend time with family.