Betsy Aoki

Speaking Language

I am not speaking English now.
The lightest word will alter our trajectory.
The slightest touch, and another marvel
of translation blows itself to feathers,
to pieces of paper fluttering in a cracked wall.
I am trying to tell you. Listen to the faucet.
Hear what I look like. Imagine

the dark-haired phrase you fell in love with
during a sixth grade picnic. Now give her
eloquent eyes, a slender body, a new name.
Her syllables roll over your tongue,
skate over breaking ice. Words do that well.
White grains, small grains,
long grains scattering on linoleum. What
language looks like: a woman unafraid to eat.

The lake is breaking. Underwater
swims a long black fish, a sleek diver.
She is not speaking English now.
She sends meanings to the surface
in white bubbles, in pearls. They roll
up the sides of your face, in laughter.
They break against the glass.

You say she is that kind of woman. You slur
the night with her. She leaves behind
no letter, no predictions. You have not heard
the diction of her face for weeks. She has
given voice to me. And I am not speaking
English. Listen harder. Tell me
what I look like, once you’ve looked away.

 

 

Elizabeth (Betsy) Aoki completed her MFA from the University of Washington and has received fellowships from the City of Seattle, Jack Straw Writers Program, and Artist Trust Foundation. In addition to various academic literary journals, her poetry has been anthologized in Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves: A Contemporary Anthology of Asian American Women’s Poetry and in Fire On Her Tongue: an eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry. Her chapbook, Every Vanish Leaves Its Trace was published in 2009 by Finishing Line Press.


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