Primary Language

By Rodney Jones

You must understand,
long after the talking
ends, some voices
remain and ghost
inside you in layers
like the voices you
remember bleeding
into one another under
the main conversation
on ancient telephones.

These voices, actual
people lived in them:
Geneva, Modena, Zora.
Einstein and Faulkner
agreed, once they met,
they heard such voices.
This word—any word—
without voices is lost.

And it works another way.
Le mot juste beneath
mother’s “My mind’s
gone: my rememberer’s
broke” is chicken-fried
and chicken running.
In its beak, this chicken
holds a worm. “Worm,”
she said, leaning close
years ago—as it wriggled
she said it again, more slowly.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/04/primary-language/308412/