We fear to speak, and silence coats the night air.
So we are dumb, as quiet as the kitchen pans
hanging on their cabinet hooks. What words
do we even have? The root of fuck is as much
to strike as to copulate. And sometimes ravish
is to rape. But when you’re ravishing, you’re
beautiful. Strikingly beautiful. Other tongues
do not help. Try saying “kiss me” on the streets
of Paris. God does not help. The Bible is full
of prohibition. Thou shalt not, saith the lord.
No sounds like know. To know is to understand.
In the Bible to know is to fuck. What do you mean
when you say no? I think I know. I want to know.
Understand me. You’re ravishing. I want to know
you. Strike me. Don’t leave me alone with self-
knowledge and these rich, fruitless, unspoken words.
“Bad Language” originally appeared in The Southeast Review, 21.2, (fall 2001), and is reprinted from Charon’s Manifest (NC Writers’ Network, 2005).