WORDS. JUST WORDS
Words. Just words. Don’t be fooled. Oscillating wavelengths of laryngeal frequencies echoing in the mind as if ghosts had ears. Just because you’ve taken a bite out of an apple doesn’t mean you’ve experienced an apple tree. You’d have to swallow the whole universe in a single gulp to do that. And it’s more than a mouthful even for the word mongers. Selena. Moon. Luna. Al Qamar. She of the wide shining brow. Europa. All sounds for the same thing. A way of pointing without the finger. Picture-music without the baton. Sounds of the living. Sounds of the dead. First words from the cradle. Last words on a death bed. We paint with sound when we’re up. We sing the blues when we’re down. I ask my eyes to explain my ears. My ears talk about loud and understated colours. My senses keep passing a magic ball around like a word and each of them casts a different spell over my vision. Some an eclipse. Some a blue moon in late October. And there are words like small birds that break their necks against a windowpane by mistaking a frame of reference for the sky. Words live. Because you do. But if you’re dead. You write like the letter of the law on marble letterhead to let us all know where your’re buried. Words get married. Words get divorced. Words have kids and live in myriad family ways. Words leave suicide notes to be found in the morning written by scarlet snails of lipstick scrawled across bathroom mirrors that feel like rejection slips from a fashion magazine. No word since the beginning of language has ever said a thing. They’re silent. Words don’t speak up for themselves. They leave that to us. Words like climbing the rigging up to the crow’s nest like a guitarist working the struts like frets or like a spider in a high wire act weaving safety nets and neural webs dripping like hammocks and powerlines from the attics of your left front parietal lobe. In the beginning was the word but it was the imagination that was the ghost writer. And still is. And ever shall be. All words have a common proto-nostratic ancestor like a monosyllabic mother tongue that grunted its way into eloquence. But verbal expression is not thought no more than a scream is. And all thought is revelation faster than the speed of light. Words move at the speed of sound. They’re too slow to keep up with the extraterrestrials. Words walk on the earth looking for an hospitable voice to play host to their homelessness. Abstractions are the insubstantial shadows of concrete nouns. If you can’t say it in colour and sound and taste and texture you’re not in a world of forms anymore. You’re a hole in the ozone that lets the gamma radiation in like a high frequency wavelength toxic with ideas that are shed like the skin of an ideal serpent that leaves its ghost in the wake of an exorcism and moves on like a star well beyond the signs of life it leaves behind. Every word is a graveyard of metaphors. In every word is a house of the dead where it keeps the prophetic skulls it consults once a year like the tangible meaning of its origins. Comet. Comma. Comb. Coma. Or ball ballistic ballet bolemic. All petals of the same flower. All birds on the same prayer-wheel. Straw dogs, masks of the Dogan, voodoo dolls and sacred effigies heaped on the fire after the festival is over and the gods have been propitiated like powerful emotions. Venus figurines with bulging bellies as if they had something real to say about creativity. Hunting magic, yes, negative handprints and extinct rhinos defecating on dead shamans in deep trance states, but always on the wet walls of a fertile cave-womb with clitoral monoliths at the main entrance like the labial crescents of the full moon giving birth to architecture. Bury your dead under your hearth fire if you want to see how the living inpsire the dead like a phoenix to rise again out of your ashes. Words are like stars and the history of light. By the time they get here, they’re always light years behind the original insight that’s penetrated deeper into space than anything that can be measured in words can know by turning a spectrum into a bar code. Words can serve a purpose when the need arises. They can be the bearers of water and the hewers of wood. But at night in the slave-camps when the sugar-cane is cut it’s a different music than that which animates the workaday world. Words let their hair down and pound the ground of their being with dithyrambs of unfettered feet until they drown in their own sweat to free themselves of the chains and the whips that keep them in line like the imperial rhetoric that knows how to march but isn’t much good at dancing itself to death. Words are wanna be musicians with scratched guitars on their backs hitch-hiking down the Highway 7s of my breath. They stand outside the liquor-store and busk for chump change. They introduce their sorrows to strangers in the rain. Some words soar and plunge like dragons and red-tailed hawks, but most are just the same old broken propellers that have been trying to fly for years as if weathervanes had feathers and paperclips had wings. Words are pine-beetles. Words are chainsaws. Words cut whole forests down to re-paper the living room with scenic views of autumn trees. Words return the bodies of dead dignitaries in long memorial thought trains like Abraham Lincoln to Illinois. A man is just the expansion of the vocabulary of the boy who’s still trying to get his point across. Words wound. Words heal. Words repel and words beguile. But whether they’re telling the truth or not they’re no less real than the tapping of the rain on the windowpane or the dead branch that’s taken up the pen to scratch its life story out in water and glass as if words gave meaning to the incomprehensible by seating it like a guest at the head of a table of contents. Words enter the mystery and disappear like birds among the stars. Words give eye-witness testimony in defense of your ears when they lie to themselves about what they’ve heard. If the universe is in a grain of sand then what’s in a word if not the whole story of creation in a nutshell? Words make the man. Not his clothes. As soon as he opens his mouth and discloses how patchy his mind is as if he were wearing the colours of three gangs at once. A word can be the raven at your door or a nightingale in a hawthorn tree. They’re chameleons of your mood. And when you need them to be they’re mirrors you hold up to nature unadorned in broad daylight, and later that night when you’re alone in the dark, they’re looking glasses into your soul with cosmetic lights you can turn on and off like your name on a marquee in front of a theatre. And the audience that goes inside. Anyone can stumble across a word like a seashell on a deserted beach and put it up to their ear and expect to hear the ocean. But how many can listen attentively enough they can hear what the stars are saying as well or what the sky means to a bottom-feeder in a palace of water or the afterlife of the birds that evaporate out of it like messages in a bottle addressed to the sun? Listen to a single word like a bee to a flower, like a bear to honey, like a gold-digger to money, like Seti to extraterrestrial life, like a mother to a child in the middle of the night, and you’ll overhear everything down to the seediest detail. You can read God’s mail like a private loveletter to the world by steaming the envelope of a single word open, and then licking it shut again, ask it to hold its tongue while all the others are talking behind her back. Words are a worse addiction than alcohol and meth-amphetamine whether you withdraw in Zen silence or go on listening to the sound of your voice like a mermaid on the rocks. Your hypothalamus never forgets. What a rush it was the first time you made love to words like a slim volume of poetry at a book launch and they showed you your name in print on the prow of a shipwreck on the moon. And I like the Buddhist point of view. True words are any words that heal. And false words are any words that wound. So if you tell a lie and it heals, it’s true. And if you tell a truth, and it wounds, it’s false. I like the compassion of this. And then there are times when I think, no matter what they do or convey or suggest, whether they’re handing out names to the animals and flowers in the Garden of Eden, or running numbers on the zodiac, words are always innocent. True to life. Even at the scene of a murder, no one ever interrogates the knife. You keep your word and you’re martyred by integrity. You break it. You’ve just punched a fortune-cookie in the mouth. You lose your wife. And your kids won’t back you when you run for public office. In the beginning was the word? I don’t think so. In the beginning was the voice. It said yes. It said no. It said maybe so. And everything was inconceivably believable after that. Implausible, but true. Even in the long shadow of the Tower of Babel right here in PsychoBabylon Ontario words are the polyglot interpreters of the dumb deaf facts. Even though the signage of blind numbers purports to be the mother tongue of the creative matrix of the universe these days the dilemma is easily resolved by saying she had twins. A girl and a boy. Word and Number. Number and Word. To attend to the gender politics of it. Just the same. An infinite number of petals opens and one flower blooms like a word. Eyes open like the goblets of poppies to the light and the rain and at night the moon slips a coin under their tongues and places both sides of two harvest moons on their eyelids to keep reality from waking up from the best dream it’s had in years. See what I mean? You wouldn’t be able to see through the veils of the mirages on the moon if it weren’t for words. Even if someone were to call out your name into the Grand Canyon of all abysses after light years of listening to your last known wavelength, looking in black holes, shaking down echoes and showing the stars your picture like the missing thirteenth house of the zodiac out of its straitjacket, you’d still be left standing there like the torn wind-battered rigging of a shipwrecked jack pine on the precipice of a dangerous silence that thought it heard you screaming in your sleep but couldn’t quite make out what you said after that, if it weren’t for the way words have got your back and know when to keep your mouth shut. It would be easy to eloquently wax on about the incommensurably inarticulate distances of silence and time that a word has to cross like a nightbird of insight between your mind and your mouth, but who needs to run on about their life story like the dangling participles of pi? I cross my Ts like a superstitious parrot on a perch. I dot my i’s like bullet holes through a mailbox on a post at the edge of a long lonely country road full of snakey S curves that come at you out of the night like assassins of sidereal insight into a snakepit of sacred wavelengths. And all you can say is. O! As if the moon just came out from behind a cloud. And you turned your wheels in the direction of the spin just in time.