Dylan Thomas, a favorite poet and writer, says this about words in poetry:
And these words were, to me, as the notes of bells, the sounds of musical instruments, the noises of wind, sea, and rain, the rattle of milkcarts, the clopping of hooves on cobbles, the fingering of branches on a window pane, might be to someone, deaf from birth, who has miraculously found his hearing…There they were, seemingly lifeless, made only of black and white, but out of them, out of their own being, came love and terror and pity and pain and wonder and all the other vague abstractions that make our ephemeral lives dangerous, great, and bearable. -as quoted by James Hillman in “The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart” (a must read, by the way).
I bemoan earlier days when poets were the prophets of the people. Words, stories and cultural anecdotes were the food-stuff of our existence, not the quaint, winter-hazed mist on the edges of our choked, windowed lives. They took center stage where the very words themselves were the Homeric epic of small existences writ large through bardic retelling to others thirsty to feel their enjoining on the stalk of shared time.
I begin here a short series of poetry about poetry, words about words; the metalanguage of the language, lost but longing to be refound, non-linear and non-pragmatic, seeking instead to rebuild the world through the unwasted beauty of redemptive syntax. To that end, I give you…
There you lay, face down in a puddle of
old dreams. Your brow, damp from
sweating out doubt-filled promises-
the mantric words of small men, of sullen women
bathing on stolen rooftops of run down tenements.
* * * * *
Goliath has defeated David with small,
pebbled words, slung out quietly across
the distance between them, too far
for slings filled with ancient anger.
Gruff prayers traded for slick threats.
* * * * *
Setesh broods his flustering fare. He sits
at the table of the unmemoried death,
serving up sighs and groans – the language
of lusty crows, too boisterous to still
their cantankerosity; too new and
untested to feed even their open-mouthed young.
* * * * *
Brush off the fog that settles on
your hunger for colored story, embattled songs,
for words floating and submerged under the borders,
planted in places too deep to be found
by spade, knife, wallet or hammer.
Longing letters taste like a lover’s kiss.