Foreigner

Waking up to a canary singing sounds better than it is. If A.M is in the title, it’s far too early in the day for me. But, after a sprinkling of seeds in his dish, the bird falls silent. I look through his bars and out the window to the street that’s still staggering to life. A waitress meets a friend outside the Cafeina.

As she speaks, her mouth curves all the sharp edges, skirts around consonance, she speaks cursive. Only the words shared over the border of Argentina reach me, perk me, make me more than a part of this chair cushion. I close my eyes to let the words spill over my skin. They exfoliate me, like the ocean on the Ipanema shore. Every são drags me forward and every tch rocks me back. She is a mother rocking a cradle; I, the child who doesn’t understand the meaning, but is soothed by the tone.

Ela” comes from her throat, falling over the mountain shaped tongue. Then it’s all too fast and I am subject to only the sentences flowing, no periods, no commas, just the cycle. The third section stressed of every sentence. That emphasis requires eyebrows, nostrils, hands to clarify. Her partner nods, only nods in response and a short agreement, mouth barely opening.

Hers, moves like it is alive, independent of everything else. Rounding each word, but wide, then lips meeting, opening again. Then I see the jaw working, the throat adding on, tendons and skin and straight down to the neurons that this Portuguese comes from. A whole conversation and all I understand is farm …. fazenda

This stranger, this city, all a tamed jungle, but people are the new song echoing in buildings that surpass the trees. Rio is: sounds I can’t mimic, a lullaby language, a place where I only exist as Eu não falo Portugues.

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