There is more to speech than tongue,
More to vowels than the whistle of wind:
This, the dangling participle, and how it hangs -
There, the charm of accent, and how it drawls -
Then still further the manners accustomed
To members of groups formal yet imprecise
On occasions of love and grief and life.
Imagine, then, if you discover
That the language you speak
Is not the language they hear;
That well-meaning intentions become
In other ears sentiments half-hearted,
That words of comfort, uttered once,
Reverberate through the years as harsh rebuke.
Imagine if every word you spoke
Never sounded quite right, never
Boasted of perfect delivery - as if the punchline
Of a running joke was forever flat-footed
And limped gamely long after the race was over -
And yet an audience gave you a standing ovation
Every time while you smiled, meekly, uncomfortable
At the medallion they’ve hung around your neck.
Imagine, imagine - please - the horror
Of not knowing if the love you felt so keenly
Was the love they heard from you when
They needed it most. On quiet nights,
I lie awake, wondering what you heard
When I whispered my heart into your head.
I struggle with language sometimes,
But rarely with words.