Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Dead Languages

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Dead Languages

Article excerpt

Dead Languages

Professor of English, University of Washington

I recently went by myself to ring the doorbell of my childhood home in the Griffith Park section of Los Angeles, and no one answered, so I looked around a little outside. The brick wall was gone, the garage was replaced by a deck out back, and the living room appeared to have been turned into a wet bar. Incense burned out open windows. What was once a white and lower-middle class neighborhood was now integrated and middle class. I could remember only a few things about the house in which I lived the first six years of my life: between the front lawn and the front porch, the brick wall which served as an ideal backstop for whiffleball games; an extraordinarily cozy living-room couch on which I would lie and watch Lassie and apply a heating pad to relieve my thunderous earaches; the red record player in my sister Sarah's room; and the wooden rocking horse in mine. . . .

I'd hold the strap attached to his ears and mouth, lifting myself onto the leather saddle. One glass eye shone out of the right side of his head; its mouth, once bright-red and smiling, had chipped away to an unpainted pout. His nose, too, was bruised, with gashes for nostrils. He had a brown mane which, extending from the crown of his head nearly to its waist, was made up of my grandmother's discarded wigs glued to the wood. …

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