Language Barrier

I used to be ashamed of not being in touch with popular culture. It was humiliating, like wearing the wrong clothes—I did that too. Of course, I was a teenager then, when these things matter. I felt like an onlooker at an unknown game at a sports stadium in a foreign country, just sitting there in the stands, feeling uncomfortable. It’s not very exciting. The players move across the turf at forty-five degree angles and apologize when they run into each other. The crowd starts to roar a slogan in a language I can’t understand, chanting the same eight syllables over and over, with a rising inflection. Some of them are beginning to stand up on their seats, brandishing weapons. Any minute now, the fans are going to riot. But fortunately one of the men on the sidelines, wearing a green velvet bathrobe, grabs one of the little spotted goats I had assumed to be mascots, drags it struggling onto the field as a hush falls over the crowd, and eviscerates it on a spot roughly corresponding to the 40-yard line. On the scoreboard, the numbers are replaced by an asterisk followed by a greater-than sign for one team, an octothorp and ampersand for the other. The crowd goes wild. Some well-prepared individuals are chaining themselves together across the exits.

©2003 F.J. Bergmann

"Language Barrier" appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal Vol. 54, #4, Summer

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