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English as a Second Language
by Karen Dowell

We've been living together
for almost eight years
yet he barely knows the language.
Content with his limited vocabulary,
a hundred or so nouns and verbs,
he has no use for
articles, adverbs, or
the nuances of tense.

He stares at me intently
when I speak,
waiting for the words
he comprehends,
thrilled when he culls
fragments of sense
from my exhausting sentences--
even when the meaning
isn't what he hoped.

And if I don't understand his words,
spoken with the intensity of haiku,
he, like a boorish American
on vacation in Europe,
barks louder.

Reprinted with permission by Karen Dowell for Two Dog Press. From A Year on the Avenue, Athens Avenue Poetry Circle. © Copyright 1998 by the Athens Avenue Poetry Circle. All Rights Reserved. Originally appeared in Poetry Magazine.

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Document last modified on: 02/12/1998

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