Poem #4: Prose poetry chain

Annie Guthrie

*marking the spot

Old lands offer fresh vistas. My man is a foreigner from one such place. I profit from his accent. It startles meaning from dead words. It disturbs the civility of language. Or, in the case of the "w", which doesn't exist in his alphabet, the very letters scare up doubt: What is the meaning of "why" if it is spelled differently? Learning his language I take an ontological risk: I don't trust his version of "to miss." It translates: you are missing to me. It makes me disappear, makes me feel woozy, it gives me the urge to dub myself, so for someone else listening there'll be an added kick.

Our child has an accent too, in my imagination. He will say differently. He will say "sheet" as a curse and a white billowing softness will shake out over tense moments. His father's first language will be his second, since it's here that we live, but he will conjure up pigs, like his father, perfectly, when he wants to curse God, or the Madonna, or when a wandering girl becomes his very own betrayal. *

If only I could eat in their language. They eat like they are playing the violin. And when it is too late to fix in words, some undone thing, the child will say "the pig has already sung," translating, and the loss on his listeners will make him want to make a sound. The proper sound of eating, a trilling "r" played with a bow across the tongue, and eating it all, and well, he'll tell his father "del maiale non si butta via nulla,"** these sayings seaming a logic across

the desolation of their differences, the destiny of split loyalties— the logic that of a creature which one eats from head to tail to bone, one should speak its squeal, use it even as a symbol, and curse the enemy with its soul.

My envy of this certainty is reflected in this alphabet's missing "x." My man has a seemingly corresponding need to not have to add anything extra to his self. The harmony of "x" is suggested in its tails, I feel it only a second in its middle, and look again and again for its feel: Will my being ever so precisely puncture? For instance what I can't feel with my fingers I can feel with my fork. There's always that heat at the center humans can't get to by touch. I can't taste anything how "x" marks the spot.

The foreigner in my house, however. He proffers his lightsome roots. I'll take the skeletal version of his letters, and guess.

*"Porco dio/dio maiale," "Madonna maiala," "porca puttana"

**Of the pig we throw nothing away."

Annie Guthrie

Annie Guthrie is a writer and jeweler living in Tucson, Az. She is co-owner of The Jewel Smithery in the Lost Barrio and can be reached at guthrie@email.arizona.edu.