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In all those years having never really spoken it
except in classrooms and once or twice
in Spain as a young woman trying to impress
her advisors or of course
having spoken it in pleasantries
between friends—muy bien gracias y tu
who don’t speak Spanish
like she does but could, she thinks of all those years
having never dreamt in Spanish either
and how those dreams would have played
out had she been able to talk
to men in a language
that would’ve been foreign to them
but that would’ve made them understand
the point, which is to say that not all language
is communicative because sometimes it sounds
nice to be lost in the melody of a señorita
but at least she would have sounded new
to herself kind of like caught in the throes
of a body you know is ill-fitting but that you try
on for size and walk
around in for a while—
the way the boys she taught in her Spanish II class
had rolled their tongues to create the L
of loca before turning their attention to each other.
She had seen so many times these boys’ faces
totally empty while spitting back the words on the necks
of the girls in front of them and the girls
not ever noticing—okay, a few times—
the closeness of breath on the other side,
how sometimes she would hear one girl, Sam,
brag of how close she got to finding the right words
to say to him though it wasn’t her who almost talked
it was that unconscious part of human nature
that arrives right before the nervous breaths stop
everything.
I wanted to say that I had so much to say.
She dreams but doesn’t tell anyone about it, least of all
the man she has been tethered to seemingly ever since
The Inquisition, which is what she calls her heart
on days when light is low and bandaged
across the sky, when her heart is less a heart,
and he is after something other
than this—but what could this be—and since
she can’t shake its name as if it were
a moment in time, an epoch,
an age that makes her forget her age,
she says nothing about it or the crimes
she’s incurred during its frequent raids having lain
frog-bellied and spotted looking up at her man
showing no tears in his eyes or barely reflecting
her own. This heart,
this heart of mine—mi amor, te amo
no I love myself more than you know,
as in a dream in which all her former students
have perfect accents and grammar and had gone
past perfectly searching for their missing English
she claws deeper into the classroom
trying to find her own as if it were ephemeral
and wind-backed and could be tied to a string
and sent away to live in Andalusia
where in the summers everyone sleeps
with their windows open, just trying, she imagines
to hear a stranger say he was so close
he almost heard her words come apart.

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MATTHEW DADDONA is an editor at Dey Street Books, where he edits nonfiction in the categories of narrative journalism, pop culture, music, and sports. As a freelance journalist, poet, and fiction writer, he has published work in Tin House, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Gigantic, Outside Magazine, Slice, The Adirondack Review, The Southampton Review, Forklift, Ohio, and LitHub, among other places. For three years he was a founding member of FLASHPOINT NYC, a prose performance group, and he currently co-hosts the Manhattan reading series “Kill Genre,” in which writers test their skills across multiple genres. He lives in Brooklyn.

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