Language Skills for Every Day Use
Language class begins this way:
the professor asks the students
to name the five senses, first in English,
then in French.
Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch.
As if this is an essential lesson,
as if expression is impossible without them,
as if each book on the course list
will inevitably reference them.
What other presumptions lurk
on the blackboard where the words are chalked?
La vue, le ouïe, le gout, l’odorat, le toucher.
Foreign is the country, sensuality the given,
everything that leads to understanding,
love, voice, kiss, heartbreak and farewell.
To swallow, to be moved to tears,
to be acid, salty, open to time wandering
down the cheek without any noise
or then again sobbing,
a hand wiping grief and stains away.
Journalist and poet Ronnie Hess is the author of three poetry chapbooks and two culinary travel guides. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.