Yog talar endast svenska

by RM

I went dancing in Stockholm at a public dancing place
Out-of-doors. It was a beautiful summer evening,
Summer as it could only come in Sweden in nineteen-fifty.
You had to be young to go there.
Or maybe you could be old. But I didn’t even see old people then.
Humanity was divided into male and female, American and other,
students and nonstudents, etcetera.
The only thing that I could say in Swedish
Was “Yog talar endast svenska”
Which meant I speak only Swedish, whereas I thought it meant
I DON’T speak Swedish.
So the young ladies, delighted, talked to me very fast
At which I smiled and understood nothing,
Though sometimes I would repeat
Yog talar endast svenska.
The evening ended, my part of it did, when they started to do folk dances.
I didn’t even know how to look at them, though I tried to for a while.
It was still light out though it was after eleven p.m.
I got on some kind of streetcar that eventually stopped near my hotel.

Kenneth Koch