One church bell can be heard through ten villages in the valleys between the Harghita mountains, part of the Inner Eastern Carpathians. “Egy tíz-falusi harang,” Jancsi said. A ten-village bell.

We’ve left those villages, the bell and mountains, hours behind, and are now on the square in the center of the town of Kolosvar (one language) or Cluj (another), near St. Michael’s Church, which has stood—all gothic spikes and lines—for six hundred years. Far beneath its eaves, the money-changers gather like crows to calculate currency, risk, toll, before they switch the roll of bills for my last hundred into less than a dollar’s worth of lei. They scatter fast, saying “police” in broken English. Only later do I realize I’ve been taken.

When we stop for a beer, Jancsi pays. By the edge of the road, a twenty-father, three-mother dog slinks and pauses, trembling. I throw her bread. It’s getting dark. I realize this month that the moon has waxed and waned and waxed again as I smoked the minutes off my life traipsing beside an older professor who speaks another language and whom I’ve come to love. There are 15 years between us, and one wife, two kids, but they are 500 miles away and we’re both in another country, sort of, though here as everywhere languages compete on billboards, road signs, and in my head.

I don’t yet know that a time will come when I won’t remember the Hungarian words I use each day (gomba, kutya, vár; mushroom, dog, castle) but I will remember the long roads of Erdély (Transylvania) and the Romanian wishes over and over for the travels I’m having in vowels which coo and boom, all long “oo”s it seems—drūm būn, drūm būn, drūm būn—which literally means the good road, but I’ve long since learned all roads are good.

 

Amy Jo Minett

Amy Jo Minett has been involved in extensive international language projects for many years throughout Afghanistan, Iraq, and Central/Eastern/Southeastern Europe. She is also a professor of English at the Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts (USA), where she teaches English and Graduate TESOL courses. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Virginia. Her works have been previously published in Poetry East, Poetry Northwest, The Jacaranda Review, and The Wisconsin Academy Review.

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