August 1999

Jean Monahan

Jean Monahan   This marks an author's first appearance in an online magazineJean Monahan is the author of Hands (1992, Anhinga Press) and Believe It Or Not (1999, Orchises Press). She has recently completed a third collection, titled Same Difference, from which this poem comes. She has traveled widely and wrote this poem prior to a trip to Egypt in 1998.
Learning a Dead Language   Listen in real audio

To speak one, you must first learn
silence. On the flight into Egypt
they named the world

from the Book of Dreams.
Stand in a hollow until the animal moves.
Watch from the hill as the fires are lit.

There's a word for the kind of peace
after hope has fallen, a phrase
for the blear of sun on a brass buckle.

Today, the wide world is silenced.
Voices in the long hall, steaming bowls
of spices, trampled beneath

an accent, a single utterance.
When at last you return to the open
market, everywhere, the nod

of recognition. The secret
is to smile when you say this sentence:
Come in, sit down, welcome.



Jean Monahan: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue EightThe Cortland Review