Worlds Away

what the nomad brought home

Learning How to Speak

“Le gustaba el español, y aunque lo hablaba poquito, tenía esos ojos bonitos que hablaban muy bien…”

Here she comes.
A subtle gesture and he’s captured her attention.
Have his hands done as she wanted?
Will his tongue leave her impressed?
He needs her to appraise his work and help him
Find the words he wants to say.

Here she is.
A bashful flash of icy blue shoots up to search her face.
Is he mastering this lesson?
Is he learning from her lips?
Shy smile lingers just a fraction of a second
Longer than it should,
Before it dives for cover, flustered,
To the frozen fingers that await her patient lead.

What’s she thinking?
For a minute,
He has her where he wants her,
And he’s never been so anxious,
But he tries
To hide the truth;
He doesn’t realize his stumbling, tongue-tied charm
Puts him a class above the rest.
He gives it his best shot, and she evaluates his efforts.

Good, she’s smiling.
And she forgives what he’s forgotten,
Sees the promise in his errors,
Drops some hints,
Gives him some time to find the answer
— Silence —
Moves along. He manages to steal a sideways glance
Before he’s left to work out what’s unfinished.

There she goes.
And everything is backwards.
Will he get another chance?
Good intentions aren’t enough
If when she’s there,
He just can’t seem to say what’s in his head.
He doesn’t know
That he can melt her mother-tongue into a muted mess.
Instead, he’s stuck there with an English thought:

I blew it.

But he’ll play himself the fool,
Dig up some lingering confusion,
And suggest an
Unarticulated
Question
That he knows will lure her back

Every time he lets her walk away.

Y me daba una sonrisa, ¡y yo me quedaba loquito! Y después en el examen, lo ponía todo al revés.”

My native language is English, but I used to teach Spanish. It was kind of weird, at times, to be on the other side of the desk — I was only 22, but my students were college kids. I have a lot of fun memories from teaching though, and I often miss it. Ironically, I’m comfortable presenting a lesson in front of a group, but, one-on-one, I’m really timid with people I don’t yet know very well. From what I’ve been told, my shyness doesn’t come across when I have an “audience.” But life’s most important interactions usually don’t involve an audience. It’s those moments when all the languages in the world can’t help you, and it doesn’t matter how articulate you are — what matters is finding the courage to say what needs to be said. Hence, my thoughts on “Learning How to Speak.”

In any case, the Spanish lines are from a song called “Carito” by Carlos Vives, about a boy and his language teacher. It’s a fun little song. Hope you enjoy it as much as I always have:

December 4, 2009 Posted by | Poetry, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment