Robert Pinsky

Accents of the older New York and Southern women
I talked to in a poetry seminar years ago,
The New Yorker said "My voice is ugly,"
The North Carolinan, "No you sound smart,
I sound so stupid," like a hillbilly.

For once all the time I've spent thinking about
The sounds of tongues, palates, teeth, lips,
Shaping the vibrations of the voicebox seemed
Useful in an ordinary way, I pointed out how
Tiny the differences in accent were, imagine

Some Japanese or Portuguese speaker learning English
Listening to the two of them, no difference
At all . . . James Mason sounds just like Mel Brooks. in truth. Amazing how the delicate cilia
And filaments of our ears can create so much.

Meeting new people I always pretend to be
An ordinary Jewish man from New Jersey,
Though really I am more of a Morrocan pirate.
Very few of them can detect the deception.
Speaking as a Moroccan pirate, I can tell

Those women that the story of how they came to believe
Their non-anchorman voices were ugly or stupid
Is the longest of all stories, it began south of Fez,
Where the River of Outrage joins the Sea
Of forgetfulness. Only pirates dare go there.

Now in my affected New Jersy accent I Have used about half of the allotted time. Two different friends voices have come pealing out of the answering machine mounted
At the prow of my dhow. The river of Outrage has its source in _ultra_ and _outre_,

It flows through me always, this is a few Yards of its ugly or beautiful, stupid
Or intelligent channel, ending at the lips.
In the manner of my guild of marauders, I
Depart inland, leaving you with your own voice.

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