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The Coward 2

Rosa Alcalá’s MyOTHER TONGUE, Jill Magi’s LaborPizza Pi Press’ Recipes for Revolution, more.

I’ve been meaning to write about my state of mind when it comes to these reading journals.

I lost my tongue. I don’t know when. Perhaps it was three years ago. I didn’t know how to talk about poetry anymore, so I stopped. And poetry was just a bird fluttering around in my glued mouth. It depressed me. I was depressed. And mostly I stopped corresponding with most people. Secretly I hoped that the silence would lead to clarity but the silence just led to silence. So these journals are not about me showing off my fluency. They’re more self therapy. They are embarrassing. Full of ums, ahs, and incomplete thoughts. You can hear me swallow and sweat. So if I let the embarrassing fly, I’m hoping wholer words and thoughts will follow. But, also, this is just one part of my life. I do stuff like eat good food and take hikes and love Cheryl. Don’t worry! Just trying to be accurate.


One thing I didn’t add to this journal was immigration court records I’ve been reading on account of some work I’m doing. Maybe next time. Long story short: the monolingualism of the courts is killing people. They essentially say to detainees filing for asylum who are often suffering PTSD and usually have few resources and no lawyers, “Please write a long report on all your trauma in English. Gather corroborating accounts in English. If you can’t write in English, get a translator. If the accounts aren’t in English or translated by a certified translator, we will throw them out.” It’s a farce.

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About the Author

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Joe Hall is the author of five books of poetry, including Someone's Utopia (2018) and Fugue & Strike (forthcoming). His poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Postcolonial Studies, Peach Mag,, PEN America Blog, Poetry Northwest, Ethel Zine, Gulf Coast, Best Buds! Collective, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has taught poetry workshops for teachers, teens, and workers through Just Buffalo and the WNYCOSH Worker Center.

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