Poetry & Prose


My favorite sound in Mandarin.

Not a word, often lost in translation,

Impossible to explain, yet essential

Nuanced in use, it comes naturally

A telltale sign of native fluency

Or learned proficiency

Disrupts the dissonance of charged conversation

A peace offering, an upwards inflection

Marking sweet exchanges at the dinner table

The trailing tail of a sentence,

Used for emphasis, persistence,

Or to soften your words

In a language that is vibrant with distinct, sharp tones

Clashing syllables on a bustling street

Vendors selling fresh produce on a city block

A sound that mediates,

Cools the jarring collisions of argument

Can add a warmth, a missing tenderness

Or readily invites a response

In an endearing question to a loved one

“Ni ne?”