Language Immersion

By Jeff Walker

Featured Art by Martin Johnson Heade

Nobody, speaking of fluency, would remember
that party where I told the young woman
seated on the floor: this food tastes good. Nothing untoward.
She surprised me by crawling on all fours, her blouse fairly open
at the top by way of happy gravity, to gently
take the food from my hand with her teeth; alarmed me
because I was not young and
what could she be thinking by doing that?

Around us on sofas and out under the trees hummed
the language I would not understand after years of trying
and also of trying to understand why I couldn’t,
an easy-to-employ tongue with few options and simple
structure but when they speak to each other it’s unintelligible,
a giggle-babble, a bubbly stream of what I guess are words,
vain emptying of thought from one head to another,
like all language, really.

Why not give it up and run silent miles
through the mud and rice paddies with my jogging buddies,
or ride miles on a motorbike alongside a mute, jiggling citizenry,
my face contained and content behind its polycarbonate shield,
my mouth behind its filter mask, and who on the back
not speaking, only chewing?

Jeff Walker lives on a one-time cotton farm outside of Athens, GA. He’s got a couple of young children and works as a graphic designer. His essays have appeared in Brick, Witness, and elsewhere; his poems in The Cincinnati Review, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere.

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