Babel Beach by Steven C. Reese

Once, secure at the center, you would come to this
verge to pretend—to play at surrender.
You’d pick a wave, watch it gather its force;
you’d place yourself in its juggernaut path
just where it would heave highest, its top lip all froth
curled over you; then you’d let it crush you under

and drag you, helpless, flailing, toward shore. At your ears
a muffled but roiling quarrel went on
in seventy tongues, and none of them yours,
but all silenced the moment you broke through
to your own breath again, to the one world you knew.
Those sun-sure days—how could you know what would happen:

the verge, the division-lines, and gathering unseen
the surge of languages, curling mid-air,
then crash, the quarrel of which everyone
will forever be part now, where you flail
and gasp toward a guessed-at shore, not seeing, for all
the salt in your eyes, any way of getting there.


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