The Local Language

By Ralph Angel b. 1951 Ralph Angel
The way she puts her fingers to his chest when she greets him.

The way an old man quiets himself,

or that another man waits, and waits a long time, before speaking.
It’s in the gaze that steadies, a music

he grows into—something about
Mexico, I imagine, how he first learned about light there.

It’s in the blank face of every child,
a water that stands still amid the swirling current,

water breaking apart as it leaves the cliff and falls forever
through its own, magnificient window.

The way a young woman holds out a cupped hand, and doves come to her.

The way a man storms down the street as if to throw open every door.

And the word she mouths to herself as she looks up from her book—for
that word, as she repeats it,

repeats it.

Ralph Angel, “The Local Language” from Twice Removed. Copyright © 2001 by Ralph Angel. Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books, Inc.

Source: Twice Removed (Sarabande Books, 2001)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Ralph Angel b. 1951


Subjects Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books

 Ralph  Angel


Born in Seattle, Washington, Ralph Angel earned a BA from the University of Washington and an MFA from the University of California at Irvine. Angel is the author of the poetry collections Anxious Latitudes (1986); Neither World (1995), winner of the James Laughlin Award; Twice Removed (2001); and Exceptions and Melancholies: Poems 1986–2006 (2006), winner of the 2007 PEN USA Literary Award in Poetry. His translation of the work . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poems by Ralph Angel

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books


Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.