German for Thank you.
Grandpa speaks it to impress.
Dankeschön when the waitress
brings his coffee
(two creamers on the side).
Dankeschön as he passes the tithing
bucket around the sanctuary.
He picked up the language
fighting in Korea—
or was it ‘Nam?
Or had he only served the men
who fought, West German soldiers
who said Dankeschön as he ladled
goulash into their bowls?
he tells me when I fold his laundry,
dust framed photos on his shelves,
water his garden, drive him to the bank.
Thank you, miss, he translates,
but no dictionary can detect
the alien tongue: duspreka.
As if his German education
halted at thank you
and he ad-libbed from there,
passing gibberish off for Deutsch—
a creole dialect mixing speech he
acquired in battle, in chains,
with the native vernacular
he lost before birth in a foreign land.