Speak my Language

“Is your dog’s name Oreo?”
I message random Bumble guy

He starts speaking my language
when his reply is a stanza

“Roses are red,
violets are blue,
my dog’s name is Chewbacca,
but his nickname is Chew.
Oreo was a great guess,
your curly hair is awesome nevertheless.”

In Italian, stanza, la stanza, means a room
I am in my family room, il salotto,
when he asks me how to pronounce my name before he calls me for the first time
He speaks my name fluently
Three syllables that fit in his mouth
better than he rhymes
Get stuck in his teeth
and linger under his tongue until he knows they mean “light”
Until their aftertaste is a flicker that makes his lips curl and ears rise

In the kitchen, la cucina, he speaks my language when
he learns that crushed tomatoes
aren’t sauce yet
When his shadow over our pot is enough
to make a chopped onion soften in extra-virgin olive oil
When pinches of dry basil and oregano
brag about how well he simmers
When he compliments me
for the sauce our pasta
without realizing I just reheated his own

We write our own language with
the jar my grandmother kept sugar in
Alternate between using it the way my Nonna Maria did
and as cookie jar like his Zadie would have
With the Mezuzah outside our bedroom, la camera da letto
Protecting a Jewish boy and a baptized Catholic
With the tiny teddy bear frame
encasing a photo of the holy family
on a shelf just an arm span away
Used to sit on my Nonno Francesco’s desk
With a connection to religion that is not to God
but to our grandparents

We share a language when we eat his latkes
in the dining room, la sala da pranzo, during my cousin’s Christmas Party
When we have bruschetta on matzah during Passover
When his favourite cookies are ones I bake instead of Oreos
Says amaretti instead of “those almond cookies”
Wants me to make an extra batch for his dad
because he enjoyed the ones he dropped off two days ago
Splits the cost of almost flour
We don’t own a vase
The smell of our amaretti fill la stanza
in a way that is less scripted than violets or roses

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