Vows of a Second Language
Conjugations of spoons in the refectory,
the prayers flavorless, root vegetables squatting
in gray rural outskirts,
the rich broth of Brussels a tram ride away.
These words like soldiers serve me when I call
for supplies, report on the taste
of that beetle whose back I cracked in half
and spat out. Bitter, amere. Listless soup.
And dimly remember sing-song Walloon;
our saints, on good terms with nails, hooks, blood,
the lacerated skin of martyrdom, lowered their eyes
or raised them heavenward, their souls reinstated
as mourning doves offering canticles
to orphans of contagion, earthquake, war.
In this picture, a child returns to the field
where her house broke apart, bangs a lost pot
to wake the ones who sired her.
Lêves-toi, maman, mon père. J'ai faim.
Around what's hollowed out, old smoke curls,
father's avowed cigarettes, his small vice,
the yellow-white descent of ash: cendre, jaune, blanc,
combed through mother's sparse hair,
all take wing towards the intricate city
where Charles, mon frère en poesie, unlatches a window.
In my fabricated Belgrade of his birth, light streams
through mullioned panes on which he writes
"night coming down, a dog with wings."
I, too, having taken the vows of a second language,
salute these words.
Copyright © 2011 by Colette Inez
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission