It doesn’t seem fair. This one-way street.

How all communications, negotiations, explanations have to be in English. Throwing in curveball words like “knee” that don’t even pronounce the ‘k’.

And I never realized the possessiveness of this language. All the “my”‘s. The Bohemian may want to say that he is sleeping on his back. So he will tell me, “I’m sleeping on the back.”

I like the way this sounds, just slightly different. But he wants me to tell him when I hear these subtleties.

“Just so you know, it really would be more like, ‘I’m sleeping on my back.'”

“Oh, okay. Not the back. My back.”

We laugh and chime…”mine, mine, mine.”

Inspired to incorporate a more sharing spirit in our communications, I suggest that we have periods of time when the Bohemian just speaks Czech. Hold nothing back, no need to translate, just let it flow in his native tongue. I reason that should I be in the Czech Republic this would be my fate. Immersed in a culture of humans speaking a language I did not understand, searching faces and hand gestures for cues.

Maybe this exercise would help me feel what he is speaking, instead of understanding it.

Late one night we try it. He begins slowly, those first, foreign, beautiful words moving through air to my ears. From that initial syllable, I know not a word he is saying.

from ALPHABET by Karel Teige

I am like a person blindfolded in a room, new senses surfacing in an attempt to orient themselves to a world without sight.

My mind tries to order this barrage of sentences into familiar boxes – make sense of this transmission. But it is all so different, so unknown. My brain surrenders. Lets go. I stop thinking and I am left to soak in the essence of a lyrical delivery that reveals the natural, deeply rooted heritage of the speaker. This Bohemian man I love.

I watch intently as his face softens, his eyes dancing in sync with the words that roll from his mouth like a song. I swear he is sparkling in a way I have never seen before.

This is an effortless communication that flows from him with ease. A purely one-way street, he can say anything here and I will never really know. Just get it out and speak it, and I’ll just be there smiling, taking in exotic sounds.

As he continues, holding my hand, our faces close, I catch only a two words I recognize. A few times the word “krásný” – “beautiful” – flows out between unknowns. And then, as he concludes, the final note to his song is “žena.”

I’ve heard this one before. And right now, I don’t want to translate it. Don’t want to know the context.

I just want to enjoy the sound of old letters making new sounds. Hum with the vibrations that move through his throat, rolling over me in a wash of fresh eloquence.

Not try to understand.


2 thoughts on “The Beauty of Foreign Territory

  1. In light of my recent episodes of silence and in this current journal that titled itself ‘a quest for silence’… your ideas and surrender resonate loudly. How is it that we have come to take words as concrete and all-telling? There is so much to be told between the space of words…. Thank you for sharing.


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