Posts Tagged ‘language’

with thanks to JT


all day leapfrogging

from known to known to known

missing the feelings between the feelings—

ten thousand mysterious spaces

waiting for us to fall in




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Just as the sun enters the room

and changes the feel, the warmth,

and the power to perceive,


the right word, too,

can be a beam, can shine

into an evening, bring


glimmer, tidings of light,

make even the darkest corners

shine. Yes even one word


can become a prayer,

a gate we pass through

to find ourselves luminous.


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Even after everything is said

there is so much left unsaid.

I have measured the nights in stars

and lost track. I struggle to say

something true. When I stop

trying, I notice the how night

comes in and fills my throat.

Though no one can hear it,

it says everything I wish to say.


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Speaking of Love




At the headwaters, the river

is mercilessly clear. Every rock

on the bottom is visible, magnified.


The fish must find shadows

or roots for hiding. I wonder

how it would be to speak so clearly—


a tongue so transparent

we might gaze into each other’s words

and see every color,


even the colors we would hide.

I want that, I say. A gray bird

sings in the spruce tree.


I cannot translate its song,

though it’s only several repeated notes.

This is how it is, sometimes,


even the simplest utterances

are impossible to decipher.

And now thunder. This language


arrives with its charge, its dark verb.

I tell myself I don’t want it.

Then it becomes my greatness.


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Foreign Tongues




We sometimes slip into w-wanguage,

a tongue my son invented, though no longer speaks.


My daughter and I are the two sole speakers

and we often find ourselves saying


What wa wabulous way, or

Womma, wan wi wease wave wore wapples?


The rules are simple.

We break them anyway,


forgetting to w or tripping over

our own expectations of how a word should sound.


In the end, the desire to speak clearly

and to be understood always wins.


Other times we’ll speak in nonsense syllables,

long strings of babble bellowed or crooned.


We’ll wave our hands, as if there is something

really at stake—like the desire to be understood.


Perhaps this is why whatever syllables

she utters, I will eventually echo them back,


stroking her hair, looking her right in the eye,

letting her know for certain


I know exactly what she means.

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A Languaging Between




Spring speaks a language

with only present progressive verbs—

just today as I walked into blue sky

turned blizzard, I attempted translations

into English with words such as flusterizing,

mirthing, tizzying, and unguarding,

but none of these seemed quite right.

As soon as I felt I had touched

something true, the moment

was already changed.


In Springese, there’s a word

that means both destroying

and flourishing. And another word

that means both grieving

and rejoicing. I felt my heart

leap up in glad recognition—so familiar

it is with unrepentant paradox

that the clumsy tongue can’t master.


They seemed to have a profound conversation,

my heart and spring, that my brain wanted

so much to decode. It could not,

but the snow was heavy and cold and wet

as it fell on my warming cheeks,

my rising chest, the greening grass.

And though it was clearly

inadequate, the brain settled

for this gloss, God, its so good,

so damned good to be alive.



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She speaks in a secret language.
It is always made up on the spot.
She will look at me most sincerely
and say something she knows I’ll not
understand. But what pleasure when
I do. This time, she wants raspberries,
please. And I offer them. And then,
in plain English, she asks me,
surprised and slightly thrilled,
Mom, how’d you know what I mean?
And I respond in the secret language
only eyes can speak.

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Teach me, world, to speak
in mahogany—to begin
every word with a hum

and deliver each word
with a laugh and end every word
with the trust

that if it wanted to
the word could go on

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I whisper them in your ear before we sleep.
I say them because what I am trying to say
is that if you were on one side of the river and I
were on the other side, then I, although I
am an engineering dunce, would find a way

to build a bridge to you. And if the bridge fell apart,
then although I am a klutz, I would walk far upstream
and try to swim across the current, no matter how cold,
how murky. And if the water were too swift and it carried
me past you, well then, I would climb out and dry off

and recover and try again. And if by chance we found
ourselves on the same side of the river and it
was both marvelous and terribly hard, and
if I sometimes found myself wanting to build
a bridge to cross and get away, or found myself

wanting to just jump into the waves, well,
I wouldn’t. I would stay. But that is a whole lot to say
and not so easy to take in, so instead, for the sake
of simplicity and going to sleep, I just kiss you on the head
and whisper those three words.

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Speak to me soft
in a voice so low that I lean in,

and speak to me in idioms
of night. Let’s lose any lens

that condemns. Let’s forget
any tongues that speak in

blades or claws. Speak awe.
Speak yes. Speak song. Translate

my fear into tenderness.
Converse in amber.

Converse in ice melt clear.
Speak quietly. Speak near

in tones that I more feel
than hear. Speak broken.

Speak wing. Let’s mislay our will
to judge. Let us be uncaged, untethered,

let us be light, fluent in warmth
in greening, in spring. And let

us be lighter than that. And lighter.
Speak in nothing. In the morning,

let’s give everything away.

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