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God Knows English

ISSUE:  Spring 2012
Photo by Noah Rabinowitz

You know how certain singers turn words
into sounds, keeping only the tune?
Clean-shaven, hatless, he waited

for the opposite to happen.
God knows English, he wanted to say,
wanted to leave the old books

open to the same page, each line
read aloud for him to repeat, each syllable.
Easy to let a beard claim your face

like a sign of knowledge, easy
to wait for the afternoon to end.
In the study hall’s thin electric light,

he listened to them scat sing,
listened to the commentary hooked
and curved as if released from sense,

and wondered how long it takes
to learn that sound,
how long to hear whatever it means.


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