Denise Duhamel

 


from: HELP (IN 47 LANGUAGES)

It is rumored that when the famous linguist William Jacobsen was struck by a car, he shouted, "Help!" in 47 languages.

 

Hjálpa


Dear Denise, I just read your poems in a magazine we get free here at the prison and I even read one aloud to the guys but the poems need your delivery I wish I could hear you speak them out loud or meet you needless to say I’m innocent the system is so fucking rigged pardon my French your poetry seems really liberal I thought since you are such a convincing writer you would consider starting a petition to get me out of here or have my trial reopened people would listen to you since you’re smart and persuasive if you know any lawyers that are willing to do something pro bono for me I’d appreciate your help in contacting them on my behalf but if you can’t swing that maybe you could send me your photo I’m a really good artist I could draw you then send you a copy of your portrait. Sincerely, T. J.


 

A-LI-S-DE-LV-DI


May I help you?  Would it help if I gave you my sweater?  Would it help if you had your own computer?  Would it help if I were an Advil instead of a person?  Would it help if you left him?  If she left you?  Would it help if you read this self-help book?  Would it help if you turned up the air-conditioning?  Would it help if I proofread your will again?  Would it help to talk about it?  Would it help to write about it?  Would it help to draw or sing or go to the movies?  Would it help if you had a better pair of shoes?  Would it help if you saw my accountant?  Would it help if I took a look under your hood?  Would it help if I rubbed your shoulders?  Would it help if I turned on the light?  Would it help if I carried that for you?  Would it help if I left?  Will you please help me with my zipper?  Will you please help me with my coat?


 

KYENAWA’S


A group of old men gather each morning for coffee in a Hardee’s in Amherst, Virginia.  A man (a retired farmer, I’m guessing) comes to the table where my husband and I, clearly out-of-towners, sit.  He asks us, “Are these your keys?”  They are not.  They belong to the man outside looking under the front seat of his convertible, checking in his glove compartment, scratching his balding head.  The old locals have a good laugh.  “It doesn’t matter what kind of car you have, if you don’t have the keys to drive it.”  They call the young women from behind the counter to come take a look at the man and his red sports car.  They double up, they just can’t help themselves, as the old man repeats his joke.  “But at the end of the day I’m a Christian,” he says, walking outside towards the stranger, jiggling the keys.