“I Am Speaking the Language” by Ashley Bethard

Let me loose in you, but not to be lost: loose like a wanderer, as I am among words, drifting back and forth over your breaths and rhythms, your syllables, your punctuation. It is cliché to say I want to learn the language of you. To invert and to subvert and to somehow make you rattle with the thrum of new possibility, to shake and then still in just one stanza. But isn’t it not just as cliché to say I love you? And isn’t that backward? In I before you I put myself first, the contradiction of the thought itself.

But pay attention so that you might read this: the drops of sweat sketch delicate ellipses across our skin. Our long streaks of moisture the unfinished em-dashes that finish themselves after they’ve evaporated. A semicolon the pause; where I catch my breath.

In bed I trace the Russian letters on your back and pretend to know what they mean. I mouth the words, pretend to pronounce them, tripping the consonants c and k. I write a story with my fingers. I hope you can hear it.

Dictionaries do not have the words but I would willingly scratch your meaning into every entry. To find you there on the page between freehanded and frenzy and everywhere beyond. You have worked your way into each word. I pronounce you. I e-nun-ci-ate you, drop my tongue, watch as the letters drop off one by one and struggle for the sound of flutes beneath the surf.

I am taking up with the cartographers of language, peeling back the pages to find you waiting there in the quiet, silent in the smell of old paper, and it makes sense. Beginnings and ends are useless; all that matters is the there. Because love is not a mountain or monument but a valley to sink into. And it has taken a while but I have finally learned it — invert, subvert — you before I and love in between. You, I love. I am speaking the language now.

More fiction at Used Furniture.


  1. Love this.

  2. this is amazing!

  3. Epic. This reads like a dream!


  1. […] “I Am Speaking the Language” by Ashley Bethard over at Used Furniture Review. […]

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