ETYMOLOGICON (Winner of the Majda Gama Editors’ Prize)

What may this mean? language of man pronounced
By tongue of brute, and human sense expressed?

                                             — JOHN MILTON

The Spanish ended up with aguacate

because they heard the Aztec wrong.

The word āhuacatl might or might not 

have meant testicle. Who knows the truth 

about how anything begins. All I wanted

to do was trace the origin of my sorrow

and where did that lead me. My mother

tongue can testify to this: my trouble 

with language has everything to do with

either blood or inheritance. Depending on

how you say it, three letters—A R A— 

can mean thunder or wonder or body

or family. Here’s something you might

not know: Pandora never had a box.

That, too, was—no, is—a mistranslation. 

Hey Pandora. Play Honey From the Jar

by Herbie Hancock. Hey Pandora. Play

Fly Trapped in a Jar by Modest Mouse.

Play Jar of Hearts. Play Jar of Cardinals.

Listen. I’m trying to tell you something.

Ayokunle Falomo is Nigerian, American, and the author of AFRICANAMERICAN’T (FlowerSong Press, 2022), two self-published collections and African, American (New Delta Review, 2019; selected by Selah Saterstrom as the winner of New Delta Review’s 8th annual chapbook contest). A recipient of fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and MacDowell, his work has been anthologized and published in print and online: The New York Times, Houston Public Media, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Texas Review, New England Review, Write About Now among others. He is currently a Zell Postgraduate Fellow at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program, where he obtained his MFA in Creative Writing—Poetry.