The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Ronnie Sirmans

Confusion of Tongues


I unfold the instructions,

and at first I am lost,


Typographical error? 
Then I realize it’s

to proclaim precautions.


at the top of a different page,

and I am comforted despite

the warnings that begin.

The numerals are the same,

1. Danger

2. More danger

3. Yet more danger.

So I figure out that


also is alerting people

to a safety notice.

My SAFETY seems so easy

at a glance, and it tells

me to NOTICE right away.

But the Dutch, the Netherlandish

-- Netherlandian? --

they have to jump over

consonant after consonant,

propping up vowels together

so they won’t be so feeble,

so maybe the word won’t be

so feeble; my two words

crammed into their one.

But then I am amused,

as I already don’t read all

of my words, when I see

that two words for a thought

can even multiply. The Polish:


Safety notice or an eye chart?

Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, speaking?

UWAGI STWA really Polish?

The five clumpings put to shame

the trios from French and Spanish:

each containing its vital DE

that I learned no matter which

of the two romantic languages

I yearned for while trying

to learn my own loving words.

I know whether the product is
a household cleaner, tanning bed,

power tool, or exotic fruit,

the NOTICE warns to protect

the eyes, but what about

the tongue you use?

Once confronted with


do you keep going, or

is safety already too late?




RONNIE SIRMANS is a metro Atlanta newspaper journalist. His poetry has appeared in The South Carolina Review, Tar River Poetry, Gargoyle, The Behemoth, Third Wednesday, Light, BlazeVOX, The Museum of Americana, Hoot Online, and elsewhere. 



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