These Words

In the calm gray of the afterlife, Shay discovers all the words she has not said in her lifetime hovering after her like the train of the wedding dress she will not wear.

These words, which she’d have thought would be all bad, are not. They are not only those she kept inside her when she wanted to speak so dearly that her tongue itched from the effort of keeping them inside. They are not only those nasty truths held at bay with white lies taught to her by her mother, which her mother learned from her own mother, and on and on through the generations until whenever it was that tact or manners or politeness were invented.

These words are there, the bad words, the sentences strung together with malice and caprice. But there are others too. Softer words. Words of praise that were never uttered out of laziness or forgetfulness. Words of love stoppered inside Shay’s body due to shyness or fear.

Shay can feel and hear the susurrus of these words following her, a reminder not only of what was never said but of what was never written. She wishes she were in a dream so that she could wake up and make it all up to the universe, but even if she weren’t dead due to a bullet to the brain in a bank, a bullet slow enough somehow to make her think of the famous story she’d studied in college; even if she were to wake up in a sweat in the bed she once slept in; even if, in fact, the entire thing were the effect of a drug taken at a party where she was feeling particularly ambitious; even if, if, if, Shay knows it wouldn’t matter. Words unspoken are rarely uttered without disastrous consequences. Words unwritten are only works of genius until they are penned.

She walks into the grey and hopes that this is the afterlife’s own little white lie: that all these words are worth something now, in death, even if they weren’t before.

Found Poetry – Big Boggle

July 12, 2013 Big BoggleMy mother and I often play Big Boggle (5X5 tiles, not 4X4), which, for those who don’t know, is a word game in which you have a limited amount of time and you have to write down as many words as possible. Since we got to be too good at it, we decided a couple years ago to limit ourselves to four-letter words, eliminating the endless and obligatory three-letter words that show up way too often and make the game repetitive (tea, eat, ate, rat, art, tar, pat, tap, apt, etc.)

Tonight, for whatever reason, this list I made seemed to work very well as a slightly sinister, possibly political (class and gender commentary?) poem. It wasn’t on purpose, but as I was reading the words out, it just seemed to work out that way. So, as you see above: my first ever piece of found poetry. Read it however you want – with the crossed out words or without, across or top to bottom, it works out somehow. I’m quite proud of the bizarre and happy accident (less happy about sharing my atrocious handwriting, but, there you go.)

Exhaustion

A carbonated drink fizzed as the cap was screwed off the top of the bottle. A spoon scraped around the little cup made of styrofoam and cancerous chemicals. A baby cried. I stared out the window and listened to the cafe make the sounds of life behind me, and I wondered whether I should participate. My brain felt sluggish. I could move and think and speak, and had been doing so all day, but it seemed as if I needed to make a conscious effort to do these things. I needed to think “move” before I moved, “speak” before my lips opened. It was disconcerting, being so bossy towards myself.
The mug of tea in front of me had gone cold. My hands felt heavy with the weight of too much awareness. I looked at them, trying to see whether there was a visible difference in grams. Maybe they were actually heavier. But no, they looked the same, large palms, long fingers, the joints closer to the palm seemingly chubby and oversized to me.
I wondered whether a parade of Disney characters walking outside would energise me. No. Probably not. Maybe a spiritual experience, an Angels in America kind of revelation. Too much energy. The perfect thing, really, would be if the cafe disintegrated behind me and the chair I sat on turned into the foot of a bed and I could simply let my body go, entirely, all at once, and lie down. I would sleep for hours, maybe forever.

“S”

Whenever she looked out her window, she saw a big “S” on the red brick building across from her. Just one letter, a simple one, with a serif on either end. It wasn’t the most innocent or joyful of letters; “snakes” and “sadness” and “sordid” all began with it, and she couldn’t help thinking of those and other harsh words whenever she looked at her “S.”

But not everyone had a big, two-story-tall letter painted on the building across the street. She could tell it was that large because she could see the windows next to it. Okay, so maybe it was only one-and-a-half stories tall, but it was up around the tenth or eleventh floor, and everything looks bigger higher up. Or so she thought at least.

It was kind of like Stephen (another “S”, she always reminded herself) who was so beautiful and seemed so majestic. He was tall, and his head was disproportionately large for his body. But she couldn’t help being attracted to him, daydreaming about him, adding the letters to his name to her view of “S.” Stephen, for his part, didn’t know she existed because they’d never been introduced. In fact, his name wasn’t actually Stephen, it was Pedro, but she’d given him a name of her own after she’d seen him at the bagel shop on the corner for the fourth morning in a row.

She wasn’t an obsessive person, no, you couldn’t say that exactly, she thought, but she was definitely aware, and self-aware as well, and she knew there was a certain obsessive quality to her fascination with her “S.” Especially when she knew there must be more letters painted up there, hidden from her by the jut of another building that was angled just right to show her the one “S” and nothing else. She wondered whether she’d ever see the thing, the letter or the entire word, from street level and see what it was referring to. The thought was terrifying.

For the Love of Words

Frequently. Free-quent-lee. I love the sound of that word. The way it clicks around my mouth but ends in the soft “ly” sound, making it like a bite of dark chocolate that tastes bitter and sharp at first but then melts exquisitely on the tongue.

Exquisite. That’s another good word. It seems to glint in my head as I say it, and I imagine a dragon guarding its gold; which of them is more exquisite, the hoard or the magnificent beast sitting near it, eyes burning almost as much as its mouth, flames curling around its nostrils? The shimmering pile of coins twinkles in the firelight… exquisitely.

Descriptions can evoke such strong images, and part of every description are the words we choose to include in it. Words, themselves, can call up memories and ideas that flash on the screen of our mind’s eye without our ever realizing it – but somehow, complete ideas of whatever we’re reading are transported to our consciousness.

Words are magical. Ma-gik-kl. Another beautiful word.

Sugar-Coated

Words on paper; black words on white paper, to be exact. Words, formed of letters, each individually meaningless shape coming together with others to create forms that the eye, or maybe the brain behind it, recognizes and understands. Words, meaningless things, really, when you get right down to it. Words are used to express every trite emotion in the book, every cliche of humanity. Words are nothing more than sounds rolling off the tongue, sticking between the teeth like bits of food that weren’t brushed out properly. Words are like phlegm, coming up the inner-tubing of the body and coughed out messily, loudly, sometimes violently. Words are just like any other bodily function – they serve their purpose, but they’re not to be discussed, not to be praised, not to be loved.

Of course, it isn’t so. If words are like food, they’re like the richest dessert, the most delicious cream-filled, frosted and glazed piece of chocolate cake that ever touched your pallet. If words are like bodily functions, then they’re like the satisfaction of a wide yawn, the comfort of a stretched muscle, the lulling sound of the pulse beating softly in the ears. If words are nothing more than sounds, then they’re like the sweetest music, the most poignant, the most touching of all pieces ever composed by man.

Words are never simply anything. They’re never simply, for they’re never simple. Words are mazes, sentences are labyrinths, paragraphs are cities and pages are countries – novels are entire universes, poetry galaxies.

In the wrong hands words can be dangerous. In the right ones, they can save lives. Falling from the right pens, words can change the world. Dripping from those poisonous ones they can destroy it.

Words on paper. Simply words, or rather words, complicatedly.

Acceptance

Acceptance is a good word. For starters, it has two kind of “c” sounds, a delicious “p” and a lovely ticking “t.” It’s a fun word to say. I accept the fact that not everyone agrees with me about the deliciousness of words – for which I must, again, thank Fry, S. J. – and so I’ll elaborate beyond the mere clicks of tongue and lips together. “Acceptance” is a good word because it has good connotations. It sounds positive in every respect:

We talk about accepting someone for who they are – accepting their faults or quirks, their weaknesses and passions. We talk about feeling acceptance from others – becoming comfortable with people, being who we feel we really are with them, shucking off the shells we build around ourselves to guard our hearts from strangers. Children are taught to accept others who are different than themselves, to ignore skin-color and race, cultural barriers or freckles.

“Acceptance” also brings to my mind the feeling of my stomach leaping upwards in a sweet rush when I find out that I’ve passed a test to get into a program, or gotten a big envelope from a college. It means being good enough, proving myself both to others and to the inner-critic.

But “acceptance” can also be a horribly sad word. When someone dies, we need to learn to accept their passing – not necessarily for anyone, but merely because there’s no choice. Life can’t go on unless we accept the death of a loved one. Even if we fight it, life has a knack of getting in the way and forcing us into realizing that we’ve accepted the horrible truth that someone we love will never hug us again, never smile at us, never blink or speak or cry. It’s natural, though, to accept this. If we wouldn’t, we’d go mad with grief at every death, every breakup, every parting.

And yet, there’s a part of me that rages at the acceptance, that feels as if it’s an insult to myself and my emotions. A part of me wants to scream out from the rooftops and subject the neighborhood to the keening sounds I hear only in my mind. A part of me wishes to give up entirely, to lie in bed and never rise from it. But that part is stuffed down, hushed up, quieted, because life goes on whether I want it to or not.