Volume 69, Number 1 · Fall 2019

Something There Is That Doesn’t Love

Students in the Middlebury Language Schools in Vermont take an oath to speak, for the duration of the course, only in the language they are there to study.


We’re in Deutsche camp,
which is a tasteless joke
my friend with the undercut
trolls out of history
like a pet goldfish pulled
out of its bowl. In fact
we’re in Middlebury, VT,
summer of ’14,
and I’ve vowed to unlearn English
for six weeks, so I can get
more Rilke and an A.

But mostly we play soccer,
shirtless against the shirts,
and afterward we screw
as twenty-somethings do.
We even fall in love,
whispering in the dark
of the campus graveyard
under the sacred oath
of German 101:
Ich liebe dich, mein Liebling!
Und ich dich liebe auch!

Weekends we go to Ripton
to hike the Robert Frost
Interpretive Trail.
Yes, there’s a wood with a road
splitting in it, a pile
of timber forever rotting
with the burning of decay
(for the world will end in fire)
and last, the wall! Its faded
placard reads, Something
there is that doesn’t love

It’s 2016,
all that is history.
Now I know lieben from leben,
but Rilke in German feels
like a fish out of water.
The president believes
good fences make good neighbors.
The roads remain divided.
Undercuts are in.
Something that doesn’t love
burns on the streets again.

Armen Davoudian’s poems and translations from Persian appear or are forthcoming in AGNI, Narrative, the Sewanee Review, the Yale Review, and elsewhere. His work has been supported by scholarships from Bread Loaf and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He grew up in Isfahan, Iran and is currently pursuing a PhD in English at Stanford University.