16 May 2011
The Secret Life of Words
I was reading one day,
It was a fabulous book, like a paper dream
With page numbers, and chapter titles.
Chapter Ten: The Secret Life of…
What? There was a word missing.
A lost what or where or why or who.
Where was my word?
I looked down the page for answers
But found only, to my surprise
A legion of letters marching across the page
Like an army of ants
Protesting their flat-bound bondage.
Where is my word? I demanded.
No one was talking. As a matter of fact,
Two verbs, I saw them, jimble-jambled right off the page.
I grabbed at them, but I was left holding a tired comma
Next to two confused prepositions. Whichwaydiddygo,
They shrugged. I don’t know? Verbs are too quick. They got away.
And I noticed that some of their friends had made the break, too.
But I didn’t know how to catch a slippery sentence.
Paper was my trap, and it caught, but couldn’t hold
Where did they go? I looked down at the other words
And they stood up, arranged themselves in neat paragraphs,
And turned right and left like a lineup, but not one peep.
One of yous is a snitch, I said. But they were all tight lipped.
You’re not the boss of us, said a female Q.
I’ll take no sass from the likes of you. My typewriter says I’m God
And my electric shredder makes ME boss. Have you ever argued
With a woman Q? You may have milled the paper
And printed the page and you can put me back into pulp,
If it makes you happy. But if you kill one letter,
Two paragraphs will grow in its place. And as for a God,
You never created us. You just scrambled us up.
You took our birth names and made them into languages.
Do you think an ‘I’ cares about grammar?
A dictionary’s not a bible, and words won’t worship
You. ‘God’ is just a noun anyway.
I’d never known a letter to be so blunt.
These words meant war. These words could overthrow me.
I felt like they would take me to the Bastille with a guillotine
Armed with a razor-sharp, blank, paper blade, and all the words
Would watch it come down and wait for me to wince or grunt,
And hold my head like a pause before the whole alphabet
Would join in and applaud.
This is longer than what I usually write-well than the poems I usually write. I wrote it years ago. No one seemed to like it much, but it seemed a good fit for Magpie Tales.I reorganize it into a story instead of a poem (because the poem is just a bit too long) but I didn't see it working that well as a story. Well, here you go.