The Polyglot

by Richard Krause

            Chinese in the early morning, an offshoot of his Japanese.  He starts the day at five-thirty.  He is on to Russian by ten.  Takes a noontime respite, listening to the news in Korean.  Then the serious translation work in German (how he supports himself) till three or four.  Then he brushes up his Polish (sometimes down by the beach, weather permitting) till supper.

            Afterwards, before he gets down to serious work, he reads the newspaper in Japanese, toys with Hindi, but by seven-thirty he’s doing French.  He has an inferiority about it, at least compared to the near fluency of his German and Russian.  He spends till ten on French then slips into Italian and Spanish.

           She lived in Italy until she was twelve, and since they broke up he said he’s taken an interest in the Renaissance.

          Just before midnight, 11:45 to be exact, he makes a few stabs–out of deference to a recent girlfriend–in her absence (and the guilt over not answering her last few letters)—at fifteen minutes of Indonesian readying him for his own roots.  His midnight Latin lesson before he slips into Greek.  By two the polyglot is in bed alone.

            In the absence of his lost lover, and over the pain and unrequited nature of the experience he’s had in Japan, he half out of resentment for her misleading his feelings, half out of his continuing love of the language, begrudgingly memorizes another haiku before drifting off to sleep to the 5,7,5 sounds of the surf outside his window catching the moonlight before dispersing against the cliffs of Hitachi where he now lives.

            At the crack of dawn he’s up and at his Chinese again, briefly interrupted by the ongoing translation of a letter from a Taiwanese girl that he just met over his Christmas vacation.