Learning to Speak

by Jacob Nantz



You can be in two places at once. Are often

unsplicing your thoughts in the soundless rest between words.


At times, I sense it. Try to keep up as you toggle

between anger and (I won’t say this to you) sanity,


like a speaker of two languages

letting each slip into the other, unknowingly.


Brother. In Hebrew, brother is pronounced with the throat—ahkh.


To us, a sound of disgust or dismissal. But not meaning that at all.

How best to explain this. The way, maybe, a simple statement can be


met with defense: I’m just worried about you.


You, your breath quickening. Why. Why. 


Do I question you? Do I? 


Ask me. Ask me. 


A click like a slammed door. Disconnected



At an airport in Denver, you speak hurriedly,

words scattering from your mouth like baggage-bearing strangers


running late, all heading to the same place.

You called me a month ago to borrow ten dollars.


You messaged me today to tell me you were flying

to Chicago, to tell me to renounce Jesus.


Yeshua. Yeshua. Say you love Yeshua. 


I call you, immediately, to see if you’re okay.


Ha. Yeah. Why? 


You tell me I have been fooled.


When you say you love Jesus you are really saying the opposite

you know that name is a trick 

it means the beast

say you love Yeshua say it

say it now. 


I look up the word. Hebrew. Translated to mean, among other names, Jesus.


Ha. You don’t know. You’re being fooled. 


I suppose, I say. I sent you the ten dollars. I’ve taken that trip.

I know the cost.



A week later, as if nothing has happened, you call

to ask if I can help you write a book for your sons.


My wife asks: did he apologize? Never has.

You speak in my tongue now. Steady-paced. I wonder.

Do you remember what you said to me?

Do you remember when mom & dad left

town & I threw a party, stowed the money

we both made that night at the ballpark selling

roasted corn in my top drawer? Do you remember


that money disappeared & I suspected everyone

but you, kicked the whole lot of them out,

drunk & in their swimming trunks? Do you

remember pawning my belongings & getting

caught—I cocked back my fist but saw someone else


in your eyes, so instead of you I struck the door

so hard my fingertips stung until you came down,

both of us shaking, rattled from what you’d done?


Brother. In Hebrew, the same word can be used for fireplace.

Imagine the confusion. This is my fireplace. This is my brother.


With either, I feel a duty to keep it alive.

With either, there is danger in that. In getting too close.

Ask my fingertips. Ask them. They have felt it.



Jacob Nantz received an MA in Poetry from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Evansville Review, Sinking City, Gigantic Sequins, and elsewhere. Born and raised in the Chicago area, he currently lives and writes near Washington DC.




%d bloggers like this: