Learning Polish
by Chad Heltzel

  1. You are thinking too much, trying to think
  2. about it in English at the same time,
  3. the instructor says. Trzydzieści.
  4. I believe I may never be able to speak it either,
  5. a necessary word. But this
  6. is the only way for me:
  7. assembling the sounds
  8. together as in English, speaking quickly
  9. only the consonants surrounding
  10. the space between words—not Zhivago.
  11. Repeat and try again. Trzydzieści. Thirty.
  12. As in, soon I will be. I cannot
  13. leave English behind now. Przepraszam.
  14. Instead, English and Polish at once—
  15. stop, Zhivago—listen to how
  16. the consonants collapse together
  17. over the space; everything else erased.
  18. I have said it. Przepraszam. Repeat.
  19. I’m sorry. Szczęście. Happiness.
  20. Hush, Chad—the sound of calm,
  21. said twice. Then, a cry of pain
  22. before concluding again near silence. I repeat.
  23. Szczęście. Repeat it. Happiness.
Packingtown Review – Vol.5, Fall 2013

Chad Heltzel's poems and reviews have previously appeared in Cream City Review, Faultline, Hamilton Stone Review, Fifth Wednesday, Konundrum Engine Literary Review, and Sarmatian Review. Chad currently lives in Chicago and teaches World Literature and College English at UIC College Prep High School.

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