“Choose your words meticulously and then let them rumble up from some deep furnace of conviction.” ~ Ron Suskind, A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League

The richer and more copious one’s vocabulary and the greater one’s awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one’s thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.” ~ Henry Hazlitt, from Thinking as a Science

“He also taught us hundred-dollar words as playthings: Why say “a little” when you could say “a paucity”? Why say “a lot” when “a plethora” was so much more fun? One of our summer games involved him in instructing me and my brother, Hank, to “mosey”, “sidle,” “amble,” “strut,” and “skulk” across the room—forcing us to put physical sensations to those words we only read. How did it actually feel to sidle? Do you do it sideways?” ~ Robert Lane Greene, from You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity

 


 

The Word

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

~ Tony Hoagland

                   

Words

The world does not need words. It articulates itself
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being.
The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.

And one word transforms it into something less or other—
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.

Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica.
To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper—
metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa
carved as arrowheads. To name is to know and remember.

The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds,
painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving
each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it.
The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always—
greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.

~ Dana Gioia

                    

Music by Seether, “Words as Weapons”

“I dream of lost | vocabularies that might express some of what | we no longer can.” ~ Jack Gilbert, from “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart”

Aleksandr Golovin Birch Trees oil on canvas

“Birch Trees” (oil on canvas)
by Aleksandr Golovin


Jan Mankes Maanacht 1914

“Maanacht” (1914)
by Jan Mankes

 Two for Tuesday: Jack Gilbert

Horses at Midnight without a Moon

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

                   

Umberto Moggioli Sera di Primavera aka Spring Evening, Venezia 1914

“Sera di Primavera, Venezia” (1914)
by Umberto Moggioli

Bring in the Gods

Bring in the gods, I say, and he goes out. When he comes
back and I know they are with him, I say, Put tables in front
of them so they may be seated, and food upon the tables
so they may eat. When they have eaten, I ask which of them
will question me. Let him hold up his hand, I say.
The one on the left raises his hand. I tell him to ask.
Where are you now, he says. I stand on top of myself, I hear
myself answer. I stand on myself like a hilltop and my life
is spread before me. Does it surprise you, he asks. I explain
that in our youth and for a long time after our youth we cannot
see our lives. Because we are inside of that. Because we can
see no shape to it, since we have nothing to compare it to.
We have not seen it grow and change because we are too close.
We don’t know the names of things that would bind them to us,
so we cannot feed on them. One near the middle asks why not.
Because we don’t have the knack for eating what we are living.
Why is that? she asks. Because we are too much in a hurry.
Where are you now? the one one left says. With the ghosts.
I am with Gianna those two years in Perugia. Meeting secretly
in the thirteenth-century alleys of stone. Walking in the fields
through the spring light, she well dressed and walking in heels
over the plowed land. We are just outside the city walls
hidden under the thorny blackberry bushes and her breasts naked.
I am with her those many twilights in the olive orchards,
holding the heart of her as she whimpers. Now where are you?
he says. I am with Linda those years and years. In American
cities, in Copenhagen, on Greek islands season after season.
Lindos and Monolithos and the other places. I am with Michiko
for eleven years, East and West, holding her clear in my mind
the way a native can hold all of his village at one moment.
Where are you now? he says. I am standing on myself the way
a bird sits in her nest, with the babies half asleep underneath
and the world all leaves and morning air. What do you want?
a blonde one asks. To keep what I already have, I say. You ask
too much, he says sternly. Then you are at peace, she says.
I am not at peace, I tell her. I want to fail. I am hungry
for what I am becoming. What will you do? she asks. I will
continue north, carrying the past in my arms, flying into winter.

                   

Music by Plumb, “Cut”