“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 bear the wounds of all the battles I avoided.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

Milton Avery Moon Path 1957 watercolor on paper

“Moon Path” (1957, watercolor on paper)
by Milton Avery


“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

Fernando Pessoa, writing as Bernardo Soares in The Book of Disquiet:

I am, in large measure, the selfsame prose I write . . . I’ve made myself into the character of a book, a life one reads. Whatever I feel is felt (against my will) so that I can write that I felt it. Whatever I think is promptly put into words, mixed with images that undo it, cast into rhythms that are something else altogether. From so much self-revising, I’ve destroyed myself. From so much self-thinking, I’m now my thoughts and not I. I plumbed myself and dropped the plumb; I spend my life wondering if I’m deep or not, with no remaining plumb except my gaze that shows me blackly vivid in the mirror at the bottom of the well—my own face that observes me observing it.
(Text 193, dated 2 September 1931)

Music by Sufjan Stevens, “All the Trees of the Field will Clap their Hands . . .”

“My soul, embalmed in ink . . .” ~ Elton Glaser, from “Dirge in the Chalumeau Register”

Jan Sluyters Moon Night

“Moon Night” (before 1911?)
by Jan Sluyters


“One can sometimes
touch, in the distance between two people,
a moment of another person’s endless dream.” ~Yves Bonnefoy, from In the Shadow’s Light

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and hot, 90 degrees. Too hot to think clearly.

Jan Sluyters Sunrise oil on canvas 1910

“Sunrise” (1910, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

Too many thoughts to be cohesive:

  • We wish for something so deeply only to have the reality of it be so disparate from our imaginings.
  • We write songs in our heads about all of the things we lack, but the words never quite fit the melodies.
  • My brain is replete with complex yearnings, yet I am unable to find a way in which to fill these chasms.
  • What we are is so very different from who we are.
  • Need is identified by the individual, leaving little room for insincere attempts to placate and pacify.

“We look up at the same stars, and see such different things.” ~ George R. R. Martin, from A Storm of Swords

Jan Sluyters Morning Glory 1909 oil on canvas

“Morning Glory” (1909, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

I continually find scraps of paper with snatches of words and phrases, but no context, so I don’t know what they mean, much like life.

  • So many weeks of being alone and lonely and having no idea as to how to ameliorate the sadness only to have the sadness become a permanent attendant.
  • Loneliness is ephemeral, yet incongruously, it can seep into the edges of moments in which we are not alone.
  • We traverse the deserts of our lives, travel these landscapes looking for the familiar, the taste of water on our dry lips.
  • The heart is a self-fulfilling prophet of despair.
  • When talking becomes too tangled, the only victor is silence.

“I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.” ~ Edward Thomas, from “Lights Out”

Jan Sluyters Full Moon on the Water 1912 oil on canvas

“Full Moon on the Water” (1912, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

I grow weary of the open-ended nature of life, would that it could be seen in advance.

  • How can two people stand side-by-side beneath the same night sky and be unable to share the same brief snatches of beauty?
  • Horizons become limited by our myopic views of life, death, and love.
  • Love is a word heavy with deceit, laden with misinterpretation.
  • I had believed that my viewpoint had merit in your eyes, mistakenly so, it seems.
  • The veins beneath the skin, the heart’s steady beat, a map to what we are—yet so many of the blue lines are false horizons.
  • I do not understand this reality—its labyrinthine truth is too twisted to discern.

“Between one being and another, there is a gulf, a discontinuity.” ~ Georges Bataille, from Erotism: Death and Sensuality

Jan Sluyters Landscape by Moonlight II 1911 oil on canvas

“Landscape by Moonlight II” (1911, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

I am so tired, weary to the bone, and I do not harbor enough energy to bridge this gulf.

  • The joy of life lies hidden too deeply to be found most days.
  • There is no corner large enough to hide me, even when I am this small.
  • Oh how I long for earnest conversation, the honest camaraderie that once was.
  • We all hide our selves from the light, no matter how much we may deny it, because darkness is so much easier to enfold.
  • True north is impossible to pinpoint when two people come to it from such different points on the compass.

“I do not know whether to be joy-white with my spirit
Or rent-gray with the blown remnants of my mind.” ~ Maxwell Bodenheim, from A Man to a Dead Woman”

Jan Sluyters Forest Trail 1910 oil on canvas

“Forest Trail” (1910, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

I failed to notice that I and my opinions had become irrelevant, much to my own chagrin.

  • Longing is the most pregnant of two-syllable words, followed only by heartache, so intricate are their definitions.
  • Betrayal is a complicated word, one most people are unable to identify as betrayal is like smoke—dense at first, transparent later.
  • The weight of words drags us down to the silty bottom, yet it is only through words that we will be able to float above the water line once more.
  • The translucent nature of my need offers you a map easy enough to follow to my heart, yet you spit upon my fire.
  • Silence of the heart comes from suffering of the soul, and neither are easily repaired.
  • Apology is a word heavy with incomprehensible implications.

All images are by Dutch artist, Jan Sluyters (1881-1957).

Music by Night Beds, “Even if We Try”


                   

Bioluminescence

  1. Candela

The eggs burn softly
in the earth, and when glow worms
hatch out, ravenous, each one comes with a tiny
bright square of light like the view-hole to a
furnace notched in its belly.
Can you feel their heat? Their hunger for the tender
moonstruck flesh of slugs and snails?

  1. Lambert

Sometimes at night, fire
flies are startled by lightning,
the tympani-drum flutter of thunder rumbling the storm
home, and they all flash at once in surprise—a quick
blinking open of sleepy
green nocturnal eyes, a phosphorescent murmur:
Go back to sleep. It’s just rain

  1. Lumen

How vulnerable
we would all be if longing
shone through our bodies, if our skins were translucent
lanterns flushed with yellow flame leaping in the strange
and unpredictable winds
of our desire, like the neon Morse code fireflies
use to brazenly flick the night.

  1. Luciferin

You are a dusky
angel drawn to the gleaming
beam of my porch light, a brief embered orange blaze
from your cigarette, sizzle of sparks splattering
the asphalt of my sidewalk.
Your touch like sooty moth wings, and I glow, suffused
with your heat, your scent, your light.

~ Lee Ann Roripaugh