Monday, April 14, 2014

I Do Not Know English

“I do not know English.”
—Michael Palmer

I do not know English.
I write words as they call to me,
pleading to be given birth,
to be put to work.
I trust them. I want to help.

I choose a likely fellow, open the door, invite him in.
And before I know it
his friend has slipped in after him,
another has her foot in the door, and a fourth,
with a distinctly foreign cast to his features,
peers over her shoulder.

Before long I am surrounded.
What was to be a quiet tête-à-tête
(there’s one of them now)
over tea, has become an all-night rave
(which should really have stayed home as a verb).
Words I have never met before are
raiding my pantry, turning up my stereo,
and generally scoffing at my taste in decor.

I run about, fussing, but generally ignored.
When I finally corner my original guest,
he seems surprised: “I thought,” he says,
“that this was what you wanted. There’s nothing
we can do about it now. And besides,
see what fun we’re having!”

I go out into the yard, to clear my head.
Words continue to stream in and out of my house,
front and back doors both off their hinges by now.

I breathe deep the night air. I look down the street.
Every window in every house
blazes with light. A different music
flows from every angle, blending
into a single river of language
that moves with a sense and purpose of its own,
a rhythm of chaos and majesty,
of words,
and poets,
and me.

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