You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it is the words that sing; they soar and descend. I bow to them, I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down. I love words so much: the unexpected ones; the ones I wait for greedily are stalked until, suddenly, they drop. Vowels I love: they glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish. They are foam, thread, metal, dew. I run after certain words. They are so beautiful I want to fit them all into my poem. I catch them in mid-flight as they buzz past. I trap them, clean them, peel them. I set myself in front of a dish: they have a crystalline texture to me: vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agate, like olive. And then I stir them. I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I garnish them, I let them go. I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coal, pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves. Everything exists in the word.
My toes are curled. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.
Lest you think my obeisance is unwarranted, the Bible seems to put great stock in words. God made the world with them, they have the power of life and death, and we are judged by the ones we speak. Furthermore, Scripture is called the Word as is the Savior of Mankind (Jn. 1:1).
It’s a bit sobering to consider that, as writers, we are called to manage such precious, volatile, fragile commodities. Words are our stock in trade… and a temperamental bunch they are. Some words cannot stand each other, and we must be on guard to allow them their distance. Others plead for friends, begging for someone to complement them. Some are shy, others flamboyant; some are blue collar, everyday, while others are specialists, waiting for an hour on the stand. Search your manuscript friend, they’re right there — clashing, snoring, tapping their feet impatiently. If “everything exists in the word,” as the poet said, then it’s you, Dear Writer, who are called to bleed them of their essence.
So listen up. Can you hear it? That shrill peeling in the distance? It’s not a bell. Or a siren. Or the whistle that signals the night crew from the dusty quarry. It’s the sound of the writer at work. Wringing. Always wringing. Squeezing, stretching, slicing and extracting. Can you hear it? It’s a wringing… the wringing of words.