November 1, 2014
When I hear you say
When I hear you say that we have no language,
it’s as strange and sad to me as if you had said
There are no stars, because you’ve never
been out in the country at night. Never lain out
in predawn dark in a frozen roadside field
to see the Leonid showers.
That the pulsing lights of fireflies
are meaningless chemical blips,
not love songs in Morse code.
It makes me think you’ve never known
the easy comfort of reading together,
sharing a porch filled with morning sunlight.
Not known the thrill of the first time
you realize you’re sharing a thought
without even a glance.
Never spent a Friday night looking up
radio interviews for the pleasure
of hearing your own accent,
your own native dialect of metaphor,
spoken for just a few minutes.
It’s like hearing you insist that the feeling of walking
barefoot through soft grass can’t exist
because you’ve never done it.
That you’ve never gotten a letter in the mail, only catalogues and bills.
You’ve never read poetry; your school library had only textbooks.
There are no fairy tales in Icelandic, because you don’t speak it.
Never heard the soft fractal murmur of breeze
in oak and elm and walnut boughs in August,
the heartbeat drone of cicadas.
It’s always been winter.