Scusi, Prego, Grazie


At the country station in the chilly morning. There is blue air on the trees on the mountains. Behind the rise above the station, invisible, a drunk is lowing. I can’t see him. The rise is absolutely locked with vines and low shade plants.

I don’t speak the language. In the train along the way, over the windows of farmland and blade-white water parting the farmland like hair, I watch the language center of my brain lose its reason. Green 8-bit phosphor rolls out words from every language I have ever heard. BITTE, it sends. No, I say. There is a pause and my brain keys back, and more slowly, green by green, B I T T E.

In the city I use my three words thick and arbitrarily. My French, my only language approaching something like the incarnation of my English, mostly hides from me. It pulls itself into a nook in the wall between plaster and a grandfather clock and it jerks its shoulder away when I grab for it.

I wait for a ride at the end of the day against an orange wall in a tight street. I stand in my socks beside my shoes. Before me, on another orange wall, open screenless windows, and the shadow inside the windows and the sky on their ice-cube glass. Swallows, their calls like tongs on dishes, dive and loop and go up over the blue sky between walls and over the walls and the windows, amongst each other and in wheels.

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