|from Learning the Mother Tongue
It's wicked, I know, but sometimes I can't help feeling just
the tiniest glee when my good German friend, whose English tongue
has mastered the footwork of all Swan Lake ballet, stumbles over
the English translation of wenn, saying "if" when she really means
"when," and vice versa,
while I, good German American, keepclumping along: learning the word Kopfsalat, for example ("head
lettuce"), so proud of myself: first time in the land of all four
grandparents, shopping for salad, asking the produce clerk "Haben Sie
ein Kopf, bitte?" "Ja, naturlich," she answers. "Und Sie?"
But this is what comes of book learning, not every day stretching
the tongue: discipline, discipline, flash cards, syllables
splashing in and out of the ear
out of context: out of their forests
of kelp: circling, circling, whole
words unbidden as fragments of tunes
Denkbar, I hear, and it's one of those reef fish floating up
to my face mask, right out of my fish classification book
but right then the name won't come, I have to look it up
Ergebnis, I hear, (outcome/result)
Abgeschiedenheit (solitude): listen
what am I telling myself, and in whose voice?
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