Laurence Hutchman – Lost Language

These photo albums span the decades:
wartime, marriage, early years in Canada.
The sounds of Dutch swell within me.

I read a language I knew and forgot—
“J’s” and “T’s” and Dutch diphthongs
(how ashamed I was of those comic vowels).
Sounds rise and break in me,
sibilance of sea, rush of waves
Scheveningen, Katwijk, Noordwijk

Sounds ripen in the mouth:
beschuit, pindakaas, boterham
sinaasappel… lekker… ah… a language of violets,
orchids, solariums, and that tobacco…

The words break in me.
Touching the page they dissolve the lines
of my mother’s handwriting—
change into weather, the lonely
excitement of windy beaches,
seagrass, kelp, the briny smell
blowing the waking coldness off
Scheveningen, Katwijk, Noordwijk

Poem selected by Emilia Mirazchiyska, editor of the series.