A conversation about languages made me think about this poem, written some time in 2004 or so, well before the deaths of my brother and mother. I've fallen away from poetry, writing or even reading it, but it may be time to correct that. Poetry recommendations welcome.
In Other Words
My first word: “Dada” --
not at all referencing
Dada or Dadaism, a movement
based on deliberate irrationality, anarchy, and cynicism --
the rejection of laws of ordered beauty
the organization of social language.
My brief rule over language:
drop initial consonants
becomes Ed Into
My sister Susie -- Zusie and
Horses: Drop H, add W,
Worses. Tommy, noun, brother,
informally, Tom Tom
from the drum, silent except
when played, sound without words.
In eighth grade love with Señora
Ramos, seagulls are gaviotas,
not the bloated scavengers that lumber
toward me at la playa. Gaviotas fly, float
weightless over water like lazy curls in
black hair, soaring fuschia lipstick.
Ninth grade, Johnny Bouche in
Hearts penned on the bottom of my shoes
oozing scented Valentines with every step.
Love, squish, squish.
I stole a picture of him waving
all American Knight in front of the
pinned him inside my locker.
Dadaism: French, from dada, a child's word
for a horse.
A decade. Johnny is at the A&P,
buying brie and wine with his lover,
I say, Bonjour and keep pushing
my cart full of ripening pomegranates.
Back in the
Mariama Akimnova taught us to
toast properly with vodka. We
memorized a Pushkin poem, so if we
were ever arrested by Soviets
They would recognize our
Ya vas luboul
I loved you.
They would whisper along
Я вас любил.
Michelle, standing in line for
chemotherapy, swarmed by
So what are you in for?
K- k –k - she said, learning
a new meaning for an old word,
Persian Love Song
Two phrases in Farsi:
man toe ra doost daram
means I like you.
gaeedamet means something close to
I learned to write I like you
I found meaning in squiggles and dots and
read right to left.
I used man to ra doost daram
to mean not just I like you
but I love you. I couldn’t
pronounce the word for love, couldn’t form the
’ ’click in the back of my throat.
I didn’t know how to love
Words from my brother
picked out letter by letter
assisted by facilitated communication
assisted by Oijii board, experts say.
We ignore them.
Words took a 30 year wait.
My brother’s finger lands on a letter.
An arm, not his arm, pulls his hand back.
My brother’s finger lands on a letter. Drip drip
the faucet leaks, no torrent, but steady.
In yoga class, bald bandanaed Michelle
teaches me that in Sanskrit
satya means truth. I move my body in sequence.
I see my brother stroke his throat, using
the sign for thirst. Mariama toasts him
with vodka. Señora Ramos dances with Johnny,
flying birdlike across the floor. A drum sounds, and
my tongue flits over the roof of my mouth, mining for sounds
hidden between my teeth and caught in my hair, succulent
words singing: Dada, man toe ra doost daram.