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How we come to language, the little ones,
testing the percussive syllables

of ba and na as if reciting the letters of Arabic.
No wonder our letters were crafted around

first words, universal syllables, echoes like those
for a father—dada, baba, papa.

From these beginning steps come
the foray into words, synapses

stretching syntax in the same way
the world expands, becomes real,

becomes something to be navigated
in baby shoes, babbling all the while

with what my brother called creature
language when he watched me speak.

Our DNA is to name: how we call the sky
the sky, how we name the dirt rimming

our fingernails. How those shadows of pets,
our first lessons in death, become the zoo

made flesh to dwell among us.
In the beginning was the word wonder

one friend told me—what we whisper
to ourselves as we watch the little ones

turn their tongues toward infinity.

Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown is the author of the poetry collection, Acacia Road, winner of the 2016 Gerald Cable Book Award (Silverfish Review Press, 2018) and of the memoir, Less Than What You Once Were (Unsolicited Press, 2022). He has published work in Michigan Quarterly Review, Image, World Literature Today online, Waxwing, and Transition, among others, and he is a contributing editor for WindhoverBrown grew up in Chad and now lives in Texas, where he is an assistant professor of English and directs the writing center at LeTourneau University. He holds an MFA from the University of Maryland.