The landscape of language has no geography. Already,
love isn’t an intersection between Ongpin and Misericordia,
it’s a small graveyard in Amherst, where Stansik, 5, is unlearning
his Russian. He reads American names off stones
the way my mother recited her mysteries:
the plump, soft beads wet with tears and intention.
His memory is still Russian; and when a tractor roars in the distance,
cutting an oblique, clear line to tomorrow, the boy breaks my heart
with words that must be Russian for forget:
When I hear these sounds, he says, the heart flies from its place.
And again, the fork grates against a plate where my father
eases fish meat from its spine. He cuts so cleanly under the bone,
The knife slides from tail to head in a single, silken motion.
He lifts the fish to my plate, the service a small one
with grand intentions. In this memory, I am not much older
than Stansik, this is not yet the father of my later poems; I am not yet
the son of his late disappointments. He is parsing my dinner into
fine shreds, making certain there are no secret bones, spindly
thorns in the flesh he has cut so precisely, and with such care,
I am still his prize. A needle-sharp pain catches in my throat,
even water won’t dislodge the bone. It is still there.
Today, as it was all those years ago, it is still there. Whatever it is
I have no words for, in mine or any English.
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