Those rocky outcroppings
on the side of the highway
remind me of the planets
the Little Prince visited—
just big enough
for one person and a desk,
a space for thinking to yourself
out in the middle of space.
That’s what I’m thinking as I drive past,
picturing that little kid
with the long scarf and yellow hair
standing up there. How did he
get around anyway? They never
explained that in the book. Madame
loved that book and wanted us
to love it, too. But I think we
misunderstood it. Something about
a flower and a sheep. A fox and a hat that
was really a snake with an elephant
inside it. That book was harder
than it looked. Maybe that’s why
I’m still thinking about it now,
looking for an exit ramp, light-years
away from that hillocky sphere
where I was a kid myself once. Madame
got sick—and we had a substitute teacher
who dropped her r‘s, even in French.
Every time she dropped an r we dropped
a book, loudly on the floor. Oh, how we
tortured her. She got mad, ordered me to
leave: sortez! Minus the r, it sounded
like sauter: to jump. So I jumped
up and down, up and down. I kept
jumping because she kept on yelling:
sautez! sautez! Madame never did
come back. I think she may have
died. It was ambiguous, the way
they left it at the end of that book—you felt
like crying though it wasn’t clear exactly
what happened. Just that it was sad,
but also somehow very
beautiful. Sometimes you don’t
quite know why you feel like crying.
You just do. And it feels good, somehow.
Once upon a time I was laughing,
when the next thing I knew
a book shut loudly, then a door
was closing behind me
and I was leaving—
walking down an infinitely
tessellating hallway, crying
with a little jump in my step.
Signing is the Most Beautiful Singing
Maybe I should tell the ending first.
In the beginning was the ending.
If it’s a story worth telling, a song
worth singing, it should sing itself. KISS-FIST
is one sign for love. Two fists crossed
at the chest, like a hug, is another. Signing
was hands-down the most beautiful singing
I had ever seen in my life. That’s the gist
of the story, the plot, the characters, each
and every visual rhyme, first line to last.
When you fall in love with a language, you fall
in love with the people who call that language
home. One day, I took a sign language class,
and I ended up marrying the teacher.
I married my sign language teacher.
But I never got higher than a B minus
because my receptive skills sucked. Plus,
I wasn’t able to master the classifiers,
which are pronouns, those basic features
of sign language that we hearing people mess
up most: Bodies moving through space.
I also sucked at face. And facial grammar.
But I was good at tongue: Able to impress
with my adverbs, which got her saying YES
YES YES. And KISS-FIST on our third date.
The verb of us. I asked her to conjugate it
in the future perfect. It was an interfaith wedding,
a lesbian rabbi and Methodist preacher presiding.
The lesbian rabbi and Methodist minister
stood beside me underneath the chuppah
waiting for the bride, who was late. DEAF-PUH,
quipped a Deaf guest in a signed whisper
to another Deaf guest, causing a snicker,
then a knee-slapping giggle. “The chutzpah,”
growled Uncle Hank, adjusting his kippah,
glaring at the juggling hands. He winced or
ducked each time a hand flitted or darted
from a sleeve. Finally, when the piano and cello
began fingering Pachelbel’s Canon in D
my blushing Deaf bride glided in, diffidently
avoiding my eyes. One of the Deaf guests farted.
A bad sign. Star-crossed lovers from the get-go.