Amos Sixteen

Amos in bed

The mother wakens at 4 am to hear, from the open doorway, her young child speaking. Was this speech, or the intonations of speech, before words? The Mother has been working late, translating a poem from English to her native Russian, under a deadline. The tea by the bedside is cold and the lamp still on. The meaning of a difficult phrase has eluded her and become a taut physical presence in the room. Her daughter, eighteen months old, talks with a small zebra in her crib. She does not know the name for the creature tucked under her blankets, but he is attentive. The child babbles, halfway between speech and song. The mother listens intently. The phrase arrives; it’s a child’s translation really. Those words dissolve whatever it was in the room haunting the mother.


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