No one will say how long ago
even relaying phone messages,
but because we came 12,000 miles to
they attend the banquet together.
She leaves suddenly with their kid
later at their place alone
the husband watches CNN-Asia,
turns his back on us, drinks, smokes
three times... Is she ever coming?
When she shows an hour later
he forces me and the kid on the couch
into practice conversation
before a huge aquarium of lumbering orange
right beside the Asian anchorwoman's perfect English.
But the boy
never gets to speak:
each time he flounders, his father's tongue
spears each near-whisper
like a wriggling fish.
Then he yells at me: "Speak louder!"
so he can hear),
"and slowly "
(so he can
He yells in all the answers the kid misses
like a middle-aged teacher's pet.
last the boy writes to me
in English with a pen and pad
(because it's easier to write and be
than to sound wrong instantly):
"My father likes drink beers."
up, his father shouts: " TO! "
and he glares at me
(meaning: Don't you agree? Shouldn't it be- )
correcting his son: "'My father likes to drink
have to tell him he's right again,
but I nod to my nephew's unstubbled
that I understand.
eyes do not plead-
he is so used to
this job he has had:
to explain and explain and explain his dad
without being able to say