Lingua Anglica by Jacqui Rowe

I am not a silent poet

European Day at Birmingham Literature Festival

You can time your journey

through this city by how long it takes

to hear a syllable of English. Twenty minutes

is the mean. Korean on the campus, Portuguese

on one end of a phone, laughing Spaniards

teach each other tic-kets on the bus.

Belarusian, Armenian, Hungarian, Bulgarian,

Gagauz, German, Greek, Polish, Moldovan,

Slovak, Yiddish, Russian, Rusyn, Krymchak

Crimean Tatar, Azerbaijani, Karaim, Romani, Romanian

are the languages of Ukraine. Writers war displaced

from Donetsk to Kiev use English to discuss

the role of conflict in their art.

You might fade from Europe. English won’t,

an Italian opines. Expunged of you and angst

and beauty it will morph into convenience.

Innocent of languages,  you won’t stop chasing

subtitles to Welsh and Scandi crime scenes.

Galicians, Poles, Germans, Turks, Swedes have

spoken English to you today. The end of hesitation

is where the poetry lies.

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