Ann Thornfield-Long

LEARNING TO SIGN

Listen to the audio version.

If I speak with the tongues
of men and angels,
the Deaf will not hear me.
Theyíll shake their heads,
No, I donít understand.

If I reach out with awkward, arthritic hands,
my arms, my heart, can enter
where tongues cannot go. It is slow,
I think and speak like a child.

I make the sign of a long beard.
Me. Old. Me. A kidís fist nods Yes.
We laugh. When I was her age, I put
my blind ear against a radio,
craving vibration juddering my head.

Sirens. Fireworks. My fatherís voice
booming. My feet found a pulse in shuddering
ground. Now I dance with a dark-eyed Deaf girl
as we fingerspell L-o-n-d-o-n B-r-i-d-g-e.

 

Ann Thornfield-Long, a co-author of Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage, (2013, edited by Crawford and Smiley), has published poetry in Silver Blade, The Tennessee Magazine, In Godís Hand, an Anthology of the Writers of Grace, and Abyss and Apex. She won first place in the Patricia Boatner Fiction Award (2017) from the Tennessee Mountain Writers. In 2005 she was diagnosed with transverse myelitis. She is a retired nurse and medical first responder and is studying to be a certified American Sign Language interpreter for the Deaf.