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Learning Signs' Language

“Verbs are in groups. You can understand the meaning using the root letters.” My Hebrew teacher underlines three letters in each of the two verbs, ‘to open’ and ‘to close’. “These letters will help you guess. The words will be connected: ‘opening’, ‘closing’, for example. ‘Open’. ‘Closed’.”

Eyes droop, under weight of waiting,

For the sleep in sleeplessness,

Black and cold,

Cold and black.

I nod, unbelieving. Open and closed are signs when they are found on doors. The three letters shine barely a match lit at midnight. So many other sounds swirl around me in confusion. Really, where are the signs? Or, are they, as my teacher claims, right in front of me. Are they not intelligible when I am so distracted by the anxiety of understanding?

Straightforward daily road

Bent in night’s shadow.

A shift of shape.

Coyote’s cross your path in times of change.

Maybe he heard my fortune cookie

Broken to expose,

Singular but undefined change.

My teacher continues, “To stand. Standing like an opinion. Something that stands like a pole.” She lists, “To find. Find. Finding. Like a discovery.” Then, she finally arrives at the verb I am swimming in. “L’echapes. To search. Chipoos. Search.”

Amid the frustration of missing spaces, I think I find a sign. Warmer air comforts stretched thin lines. “Mirpeset”. Could the word for balcony be connected to search? A noun built from a verb. A state of being built from a former action, moreover, the place that provides the foundation for the action itself. I look up the words eagerly. No. not a sign. No connection. They don’t share three letters, nor two, only one.

Outside the window, birdsong

Erases blue sky to gray.

A fading sign of starting,

To start, over.

Tired eyes heavy from carrying

Dreams for the dreamless.

Black and cold.

Cold and black

“You know, it’s interesting,” my Hebrew teacher finishes. “Sometimes the shared letters carry the opposite meaning. For example, the verb ‘to suffer’ becomes the nouns ‘patience’ and ‘tolerance’.”

It’s not just about the learning the language of signs pointing me towards a path, but how I walk on the paths I take.


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