Q by Robert Kaufman



In English, Q is unnecessary,

but English isn’t Josh Monette’s native tongue;

it’s the language of oppression used

to muzzle his tribe, the Makah.

Even that word is a lie, Makah.

“Makah” is the word used by those who did not understand

Qʷi·qʷi·diččaq, Josh’s language in his language.

In English, Q is unnecessary, but

English, like all languages, is a river,

serpentine, that transports,

drowns, rolls, forgets, is

never the same as

one moment before, or

later, or





The Greeks never intended to kill Jews, only Judaism.

B’nei Yisrael could inhale Greece

so long as our exhales sounded sufficiently Grecian.

Devarīm sounded more elegant as Deutoronomy.

Thus, it remained, remains.

Hanukah sounded like an epic myth.

The Greeks did not call us B’nei Yisrael,

what we called each other, but,

instead, Ioudaios, later, Jews.

And the Greeks had a word

for our Temple sacrifices in Jerusalem.

They called it “holocaust.”




Latin ruled England, but never the English.

Alfred the Great defended Wessex and

their oppressed, nascent English.

The genius of English was

and is its adaptability –

like the Mississippi that starts

as a shallow stream in Minnesota and ends up

teaching Huckleberry Finn and Walt Whitman

what it means to be human.

My great-grandparents didn’t know English

when they sailed to Texas. Today, I translate

Spanish and Norwegian and Hebrew into English,

my native tongue,

my way of happening.




Josh has all the answers

to all the questions

no one is asking him.

He smiles when he teaches me qax̌ak,

which is Qʷi·qʷi·diččaq for “dead,”

but it doesn’t mean “dead,”

it means “not feeling.”

That way, Josh never dies

so long as he feels.

And he feels his tribe

in the first person,

as he always is,

as they always have been.

In English, Q is unnecessary, but

in Qʷi·qʷi·diččaq, it can begin and end

Vox Clamantis in Deserto,

קוֹל קוֹרֵאבַּמִּדְבָּר,

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,

the voice of Josh Monette,

the voice of many rivers.