“please don’t tell me you speak a dead language”

pseudacris crucifer. the spring peeper. crucifer — latin, cross-bearer. what does the frog know of this burden? what does any bearer know of the weight they hold? bearer, bearing, borne? do we ever make it to the past tense? do we ever even know the weight until its too late?

learning how to speak again feels like learning how to listen. head out the window, trying to discern the sound of pseudacris crucifer. unable to. trying to identify bird calls and fallen leaves. unable to. trying to open eyes and pay attention. unable to.

somehow i have ended up back here again. it is fall and so i am writing about birds. pseudacris crucifer bears spring unto our ears and so by extension the birds must bear fall unto my thoughts. this is just how it has to be in order to make it through. a flock of blackbirds is called a keg. a flock of grackles is called a plague. this feels significant to my identification. the grackle (quiscalus quiscula) was first described by carl linnaeus, and this too feels significant to my identification. i am learning to shy away from classification — the realm of linnaeus — and to beat back the desire to put things in boxes and seal them up with lids. to be a collector is to exert power; to be a namer of things is perhaps to exert even more.

outside my window, a flock of curious little black birds — some type of grackle as far as i can tell. some type of plague. their chirping and croaking mixes in with the rustle of the trees in the wind. all different types of bodies (leaf and wing and branch and feather) rubbing together, sliding over and under. the black birds hop higher and higher up the branches of the tree like a refuge, like a camouflage. they stop to preen their little bodies, rendered almost invisible. as if their bodies are just another twist in the branch. as if they know some rules that we don’t because we haven’t been paying attention to any of the right signs.

this is what my professors keep asking me: what are we paying attention to? where do we look? where do we listen? the listening and the speaking are getting confused now, the chords tangled together. almost like coughing, almost like choking. and if i carry on long enough maybe the sounds exiting my mouth in a cacophony of sorrow will be the croaking and chirping of the grackles outside my window at night. the ki-ki-ki shrieking out over the che-che, the chut-chut-chut, the clack. my voice like a door hinge in need of lubrication, sliding open as my jaw unhinges and noxious fumes spill out. no matter how hard i try, i am still learning how to listen and for now that will be enough. the speaking will follow when there are ears ready to receive it and until then i will memorize the frequencies of pseudacris crucifer and of quiscalus quiscula and of all the other things not given latin names. 

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