Friday, May 1, 2020

There is No Word

 -- 500 words
-- Write a piece inspired by Tony Hoagland's "There is no Word" 

            Which came first, the feeling or the word?
Babies know the answer to that one.
What they feel is what they express.
Words come so much later in the day,
But once they have come,
Adults give them precedence over feelings,
Invalidating that which cannot be expressed in words,
Which is so much of human experience.
Language, languid, lazy, feline, graceful, powerful
Often cruel, too, in its indifference.
Its inadequacies stretch our minds and hearts
To find a word for what is not broken, not severed,
But has declined, over time, from what we thought it was
To what, today, it undeniably is: meaningless,
A set of words spoken out of courtesy,
A history that was once shared,
Perhaps circumstantial,
Not really of the heart,
But pretending to be, for old times’ sakes.
Sadder when one party is warm and effusive,
And the other can’t get the tone right,
Leaving mutterings in his or her wake.
I wonder what’s wrong with So-and-So
Seemed so strange today…
And when you think of the thousands of people
you have known in your lifetime,
some hundreds closely, perhaps,
How many would you really care to know
Better, over the years?
How many do you really need in your life
As physical people
whom you really want to spend time with?
Today, they can only give you their words,
Apart from those who live in your house,
with you, during this period of social isolation.
This strange malady that rocks the world
Has made language the vessel of all feelings
Well expressed or otherwise,
Our minds reach out across the ether
We seek the words of friends,
and strangers who have become friends,
to sustain us in these difficult times,
to tell us that we are not alone
in the face of what feels insurmountable
with no end in sight
A world turned topsy-turvy
(delicious words, uncomfortable feeling)
All givens no longer constant
Everything re-written,
In a language not of our choosing.
I grew up in a very formal home
No cuddles after early childhood
I’d pretend to be asleep for the comfort
Of being carried to bed by my father
And on walks would slip my small hand into his
My mother holding my chin as she parted my hair
Before plaiting it, I hold that touch in my memory
I think most sibling fisticuffs in my childhood,
Were simply because we craved a human touch.
Growing up, I learned to hug my friends
And my children knew that hugs were available
And they had words to ask for them
(I learned this from my nephews,
from when they were small enough
to need a “cuggle”)
And today, I crave the hugs
Of my children, those both near and far,
and of the little grandchildren,
who were supposed to come this winter
Until our world got up-ended…
So much to be grateful for, though,
We see them all on video chats,
All are safe and well.
Gratitude needs to be
My favourite word…

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