Guttural syllables start and end
in my throat as I practice,
covering my desk with vowel charts
and flashcards, rules for each.
But in the hands of the learned
you ancient tongue breathe song and story:
treading across the centuries and miles
of desert and time unending.
Who spoke your words?
What girl whispered the grammar
and drew letters in the dirt
outside the circle of students?
What woman worked in the night
without help or a tutor?
Did she know a crowd of witnesses
watched just out of view?
I turn the pages and stop for sleep.
I come back, spark burning for the work,
for the women who came before,
for the witness that comes after.