Talking Not….

A multi-media issue of Rockvale Review features two of my poems: Friend: Submerged and Talking Not in Turkish. The theme of the issue is communication….right up my alley! Artist Henry Jones paired his artwork with each poem. In addition, Friend: Submerged was selected for a musical response. Musician Jeff Byers composed original music inspired by the poem. I am deeply honored.

Check them out here:

or read below:

Talking Not in Turkish

When Ayse’s mother comes from Turkey,
we speak to each other with our eyes,
iris to iris, lens to lens.
Sometimes Ayse translates, but mostly she’s busy
with other guests, passing out baklava, pouring tea.
The Pearl and I sit side by side, no language between us.
Mostly we grin. Or we link arms, or hug, or pat each other on the shoulder.
Her cheeks smell of rose water, minarets, the sea.
She wears long skirts and a silky hijab that ripples when she prays.
I wonder what she thinks of my tight black leggings, my skeptical faith.
We’re both former teachers, confident in our voices,
older matriarchs who can’t help seeing the big picture
yet each hides worries from her grown children,
each mutters hopes that they may be safe from harm.
How do I know this? Because I know.
We often spend the evening without a word,
just breathing in each other’s presence.
Once we tried using one of those apps that
translate from one tongue to another,
each of us pecking away on Ayse’s Ipad, spelling out our points of view,
tidbits of opinion, but after the novelty wore off, we went back to
our beloved silence, the squeeze of the palm, and the quiet veil of friendship.

Friend Submerged

After her stroke, all droop and slack, her words
came out in a gurgle of drowning, as if she were under water.
Her grey head, barely visible above the hospital pillows,
tended to bob a bit, like a gull on the waves.
“You’re looking well,” I’d lie.
Then I’d lean in and kiss her moist forehead.
Her face would lopside into smile.
I’d sit by her bed and listen as best I could.
She’d mouth vowels like a fish, the puck of her
lips pulled down over the consonants.
Her voice would rise and fall, tide-like, but
I’d understand almost nothing.
Straining my ears, I’d search for familiar sounds
buoys of sense, fog horns in a dark cove.
Once, I think, she admired my scarf
She reached out for the aubergine silk.
with her good arm, her blood-shot eye drawn to color
Whenever I visited, I couldn’t help feeling
as if the two of us were scuba divers, floating like jelly fish,
thirty meters under the sea.
She’d try to speak, and I’d grab her hands, and we’d submerge deeper,
far from the surface of conversation,
down, down, to the place where life is purely love and fluid,
where survival depends on gesture,
the tug of the hose, the fingers talking,
oxygen flowing, an unspoken trust.

Published by

Gabriella Brand

Gabriella Brand is a writer, adventurer, and educational consultant. She can't stop teaching and learning foreign languages. She would like to walk on all the continents (three more to go!). Her husband is extremely patient and her children are, fortunately, all grown up.

5 thoughts on “Talking Not….”

  1. I always find such beauty and depth in your poems and essays. I have been an admirer from afar and first was inspired to tell my own stories of matriarchy from your essay “Mothballs”. I have received much inspiration from your beautiful words. Thank you.


  2. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Hi,I just read your poems, and listened to the music for Submerged. Thank you for sending them to me!You are truly talented. I can understand what you are saying as I have encountered what you write,by being a nurse and caring for those with a stroke as well as having had a friend that lived a few years like that – and I could never put into words what you have described so well. As to the language, I have sat with those who spoke other languages and have communicated with touches, smiles, and hugs which, there again, you have put into words.Thanks for sharing.Judy

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad


  3. Gabriella, I’m in tears after having read the poem about Nancy. I’m happy that she’s near Susie, but I often wonder who there is in Colorado that’s a friend. There were/are so many here.

    If you plan on visiting the YCBA in the next couple of months, there is a portion of a special exhibition on the 3rd floor that you might find interesting. Perhaps all of it might interest you…Moving Images, the first exhibition of video/film art at the museum. One artist looks at communication with shared and unshared language among generations. I thought about it after reading your first poem.

    A la prochaine…perhaps a little late.




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