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Learning to Talk

Learning to Talk



|Views: 1,953|Likes:
Published by Lisa Hickey
Like most of my poems, it's a story first.
Like most of my poems, it's a story first.

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Published by: Lisa Hickey on Apr 04, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Learning to Talk 
A yellow bedroom with Venean blinds and books and coins in a housewith banisters and linoleum. A family that sang “Alexander’s Ragme Band”together at the kitchen table but somehow forgot to teach me to speak.When you were in fourth grade, you remember, don’t you, the girl who never raisedher hand in class? Remember the classroom with the smell of old turtle waterand how the leg of the chair aached to your desk wobbles back and forth,back and forth? And when the teacher leaves the room for a moment, that girlclimbs up on her desk. High above the classroom, she looks around in aweat the tops of the heads of others who funcon so very normally.The teacher comes back in the room cluering while the girl sll stands up high.“Why I’m surprised at you! It’s just not like you. What do you have to say for yourself?”Of course, I have nothing to say for myself. I sit down in silence. I am sll dizzyfrom that moment. Four years later we move. This house has a basketball net andelectric garage door opener. We’ve been there for weeks, and I’m in my bedroom,lying on a pink shag carpet, reading. My sister passes the open doorway, a groupof neighborhood kids in tow. I glance up as she squawks, “See, I told you so. I told you Ireally had a sister.Even when I become a slender nineteen-year-old, I cannot orderChinese take-out on the phone. I can think the words in my head, perfectly. But cannotget them to come out of my mouth and sll breathe. Becoming friends with peopleis hard when you cannot talk to them. Yet somehow I get married; have children.Despite my own incompetence, they learn to talk. Oh how they talk! I hearmy four-year-old going on and on about her day. “Who are you talking to?”I ask. “Oh, no one, momma” she replies, cheerily. “Just talking to myself.”Where did she come from, I wonder enviously. It is two decades before I realizea wordless marriage doesn’t work very well. I can no longer watch the knickknacksgrow old as I sit at the dining room table, hoping my mouth will open. It takes me monthsto learn to say the word “good-bye.I am quite sure I did not pronounce it correctly.I run away. In Europe, in a city where no one speaks English, nally I feel safe. A mancomes up to me and asks in French if I want a drink. It is midnight, twenty-eightyears and eleven hours aer the last high school French class I ever took.My face can barely be seen in the darkness. At rst I am so self-consciouslyspeaking in “French”, but then. There’s a moment when you watch a moviewith sub-tles and you forget you’re reading the words and not hearing them.Aer a few minutes I forgot I wasn’t speaking English, forgot I didn’t know

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Helen Winslow Black added this note
Wittgenstein said "The most important things in life are those about which we cannot speak" (Was am Wichtigsten ist, darueber muss man schweigen) but you, Lisa, as a poet, embody elegant refutation. Tu est belle.
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