To My Translator

/ /

Even during the three-week synecdoche
I spent standing, so barely sleeping, on the boat,
Vertical, or at an angle, like a stylus,
A slow mover among the characters
Tattooed on bulkheads and gangways,
Even before I stepped onto the pier,
More dropping than setting down my suitcase,
And regretting—a little—the enormity
Of my index, all those blood-black letters,
The twenty-six wounds, the never-healing
Punctuation marks and diacriticals,
I had already imagined my rescuer,
I had already imagined my arrival,
Your hand or someone else’s taking mine
Here, in the land of my speechlessness.

But I did not arrive. So I stayed vertical,
Or at an angle, like a stylus. I wrote
Letters no one read here. I moved slowly.
I pointed at the things I wanted, I kept on
Adding blood-black letters to my index,
Some in italics, any letters at all
I thought were good. I kept on not arriving,
Kept hoping that you, or someone else,
My rescuer, would read me with their needle
And enough gut thread to sew ten thousand
Characters into columns, some vertical,
Some angled like a stylus. Then you took my hand.

Now my name is printed on our books’ spines,
Where no reader reading can read it. Now
Even I know enough to recognize
My titles under coagulated characters.
Now much of my index is illegible to me,
No matter how bright the bookstore windows.
Is an autograph desired? I draw my stylus—
But your characters, your sentences follow.
In the land of my speechlessness, I have arrived.
Under your sutures, my letters fade like scars.

What an unlikely set of likenesses,
Your vertical progress, your weightlessness
In my shoes, the ease with which, a few words in,
You assume my gait. Do you speak my language?
I think it must not matter. I have arrived.
Bless all those who have mistaken you for me.
Bless you for making their mistakes so plausible.
I do not know why I had to wait so long
For you and your beautiful ways of being wrong.