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Learning a Foreign Language by Matt Muth

Learning a Foreign Language

by Matt Muth

published in RHINO, 2016

I needed to associate like with like, object

with suggestion. I needed to be trained. I taped

index cards to my possessions: the nightstand

said onanist, the toilet said equivocator; my desk

was narcissist, and the venetian blinds

were all cowards. I had some nouns, but soon

this was not enough learning: I needed adjectives,

verbs, I needed fluency. Each pair of boxer-briefs

got a false advertising patch stamped

on the codpiece; I wrote won’t block shots

on the blades of my hockey skates in lip gloss,

each new term a wine grape in my mouth—

I burned vestigial into each rib and shaved

vapid on the side of my head. I’m getting better

with practice: soon we’ll be able to communicate—

you’ll sit across from me mouthing words

and pointing, your hands their own bright

postulates, and I’ll thrill with understanding.

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