Already, I am forgetting the words.
The number one, for example. Wa-had.
I wake up each morning and look at my hand,
as if it might remind me—the index finger
pausing in mid-air, perplexed at its new name,
just as confused as I am, sounding its response.
So I repeat each word, over and over:
walking to the grocery store, I number the leaves
as they fall—wa-had, ith-naan, tha-la-tha…                          one, two, three…
But what are the words for leaf, or tree,
or loss?

siffur, wa-had, ith-naan,                                                            zero, one, two
tha-la-tha, ar-ba-ah, kham-sa…                                               three, four, five…

I don’t have a language capable
of an apology, or of friendship.
I cannot say You are beautiful, or
I will remember you, without doubt,
for the rest of my life.

siffur, wa-had, ith-naan,                                                            zero, one, two
tha-la-tha, ar-ba-ah, kham-sa…                                               three, four, five…

But I’m trying. Through the constant
ringing in my ears—what the doctors call
phantom noise—I listen for the vocabulary
I never carried when I carried a rifle—

tadakkara, e’tadara, daroory                                                   remember, apologize, necessary
ghadan, moheb, hakeem…                                                         tomorrow, loving, wise…

Word by word, I am relearning the world
so that maybe one night, years from now,
I might understand the language
the dead ones bring me in dream.