as other women take up men
and shelve them:
manuals, grammars, teach Yourself
german, malay, italian, swahili, welsh,
like a passion for clothes that would hang
unworn in the dark,
for peridots, garnets, amethysts, pearls
in a shut case, nouns declined.
each unknown word shone with delicious fire
and the alien phrases silked her skin
with their genders and connotations.
she might have been the end house
on the waterfront of macau
welcoming every sailor in.
but the longing for many tongues
to part her lips – si, igen, ja,
ah oui, yes, yes –
was departure’s smile,
a leaning to the wind
that sweeps a glitter of light
across the sea and sets a silvery chill
at the neck. quick, to those books
guarding the mantelpiece,
ISBNs snug as a span of days;
to bread and fruit and sparkling wine…”
-jan owen, the return.