Day 18: To incorporate in a poem the “sound of home” (from NaPoWriMo.net)

NaPoWriMo optional prompt for April 18: To write a poem that incorporates the ‘sound of home,’ figures of speech, ways of talking people around you may have used and you may not hear anymore. “Coax ear and voice backwards.” Which is what I did, though I deliberately didn’t seek to abandon adult words as had been suggested. What surprised me? That the sound that came to my ear was my Austrian’s mother’s voice speaking in German when I was a child. I was bilingual until I was about eight. but now there is no one in my life now who speaks the way she did. (I apologize for the crude attempts at phonetic rendering of what I remember.)

 

Liebe kind remembers

The black Bakelite phone rings, once, twice.
My mother always answers on the third brrrring!
“Ya, vie gehtes; ya, alles ist in ordnung.
Was ist passiert? So etvas? Das kannicht sein….”

My head cupped in my hands,
I’m glum at six years-old, because I know
that’s how a l—–o—–n—–g conversation begins.

My mother talks with her best friend
for at least one hour every afternoon
just when I come in from Grade 1,
which makes me feel as though I’m not there.

Ich kann alles verstehen.
At least from my mother’s end of the conversation,
I understand what’s going on.

Though I couldn’t write the language then
and cannot now, I could speak it well.
Aber ich vill night is what I would say.
Whenever and however sweetly my mother asks,
I refuse to talk German on command.

Except when I lose patience
with my mother’s telephone chitchat/chitchat/chitchat:
That’s when I pick up the extension down the hall.
“Kann ich mit meine mutti sprechen, bitte”—
I muster as polite a demand as I can.

After which my mother usually sighs and signs off
with auf wiedersehn, as though she and her friend
had been speaking face-to-face,
and then she turns to me.

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