Second Language

My mother’s mother spoke
French to her four children,
the language of her finishing
school in Paris, words spoken
around cigarettes stuck
in long, silver flute holders.

Her oldest son lost speech
and his right side to a stroke
months ago, and cannot
say the names of his daughters,
try as he might to gnaw
at the marble sounds, to cut
them out of the air
with his mouth,

but as his wife drives
him away from his parents’
house, he waves
from the window and says,
perfectly,
au revoir.

Theodosia Henney is a Pushcart Prize-nominated queer whose poems and flash prose have appeared or are forthcoming in over a dozen publications, including RHINO, Grey Sparrow Journal, Fifth Wednesday, Vestal Review, Ozone Park, and Dirtcakes. She recently returned from several months of living out of a backpack, and is profoundly excited at the prospect of having shelves again.

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