As you lay dying, in a language I barely knew

by | February 21, 2022

As you lay dying,

you coughed up worm-strings of words

in a language I barely knew.

Smooth platefuls of sound, slipping

like the silver-butter

of moonlight on a pond.



If I cannot conjugate (I cannot)

– I die, you die, she would die, too, –

how can I feel the rough edges of Grief

spooled out in string and silk, by

the priest’s incense-weathered hands,

and his vibrating prayer –

Or your desperate wet-plum eyes

glistening in the fever

of your foaming last words?


Did you lament

that I could not access these shapes

– these sounds of sadness?

I am sorry.

They were cut from the same cloth

of the language I barely knew.


I have tried to fill the blank canvases,

of blanched-parchment days around The Death,

with ink-blots and badly formed letters

shaped child-like by trembling hand;

lists of vocabulary –

how do you say tomato, again? –

and phoneticised prayers.


From the brittle jigsaw pieces

of the language I still barely know –

which slip, fickle and jagged, from my mouth,

like razor-clam shells on shifting sands –

I will try to reconstruct you –


To overwrite you-as-you-lay-dying


(Swollen like an overripe, brine-soaked blueberry) –


And with these new, still-unwieldy tools

Draw you afresh, resplendent and ageless.

As a flower ready to hold

the heavy dew of a spring dawn.∎


Words by Anonymous. Art by Ben Beechener.