Melanie McCabe: “Language Lessons”


I am being schooled in the tongue that is spoken here:

the white crackle, the hiss that hoards the air

of my small glass life.  Words I might have said

buzz in the air, unglossed, and tick against

the windows like moths.  Static, that long

knell, becomes the sound I take for silence.

My syllables coalesce to drone, to hum—still, I

think first in the old language—the wind-rippled

chime, the patois of leaves at the eaves of the house.

When all of my desire flattens to a chord held long

beneath a damper pedal, I will at last be eloquent

in the idiom of this changed world.   But for now I still know

sparrows in the limbs outside, turning gingerly to spare

their straw bones.  I dream with them of other

mornings, of lifting high a brave and foolish throat.

Melanie McCabe is the author of a nonfiction book, His Other Life: Searching For My Father, His First Wife, and Tennessee Williams, which won the University of New Orleans Press Lab Prize and was published in 2017. McCabe is an English and creative writing teacher in Arlington, Virginia. Her poetry collection, What The Neighbors Know, was published by FutureCycle Press in 2014 and was recently awarded an Honorable Mention in the Library of Virginia’s Literary Awards competition. A first collection, History of the Body, was published by David Robert Books in 2012. Her poems and essays have appeared in Threepenny Review, Georgia Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Massachusetts Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Cincinnati Review, The Washington Post, Shenandoah, Cumberland River Review, Sweet, Barely South Review, and Forge Literary Magazine, among others.

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