These mornings I spend hours taking words
from one language to another. The names,
the nouns–nombres, noms, nomes.
What is a tree in German? Baum.
I know this because of a Christmas song,
“O Tannenbaum.” In Spanish, it is arbol.
I know this because I lived in Mexico.
For the French, I stop and go to the dictionary,
of which we have four–German, French,
Spanish, and Portuguese. It’s arbre,
pronounced “arb.” A main shaft
is an arbre moteur, which could mean
a tree motor if one were too literal
or too metaphorical. In Portuguese, its arvore,
which seems almost halfway between
French and Spanish. I pass back and forth
between skyscraper and cloud scratcher,
rascacielo and Wolkenkratzer.
This is the poetry of travel– of exit, salida
sortie, and Ausgang. In my native tongue
we go on a sortie, an excursion. An Ausgang
sounds like a gang rushing out. Salida like a salad,
which is ensalada. In German and French it is salat.
A sparrow in German is der Spatz, a little spot,
or Spatzen, spots in the trees; in Spanish, gorrión,
going on the ground; in French, moineaus or passereau,
which makes me think of diminutive passings,
little things, words, moving back and forth
across the border of one language into another:
migrations of meaning, all morning long.