Language Like Birds
Nov. 2008 WLT
It is Paris, Berlin, New York,
it is any one of countless cities, any one
of endless lands in which we find ourselves,
our careless hurrying through crowds
cut short, silenced in one moment
by the sight of teeth and hands and jaw,
by the familiarity of bone.
These are the faces that reflect our own,
the eyes of exiles that will search
and search again for patterns in the skin,
kinship in the bones,
history in the hand-shape of strangers.
But we have no words to express our loss, no tools
to measure out the length of our leaving.
Fleeing before the war’s black howl,
we left behind language
words too heavy a burden to carry.
Destiny. Family. Fate.
These are the words that remain
when we find each other in foreign lands,
when we break open each word of our language
to share, to savor, to set free.
We open our throats and language,
like birds, bursts from our lips, words
exploding across city streets, brief
as the violence of gunfire.