There is a language spoken within a family that no one outside speaks. It may sound familiar but listen carefully and learn otherwise. It is so with my brother even though there are thick walls between us and yet, in a few words intentions are obvious. He keeps me far from a place I’d just as soon not go and in her panic my mother hears only our words and not their hidden meaning. It is when we fall silent the conversation begins.
I picked up a book off the shelf this morning one hundred haiku
it was like sitting down a word starved man, tired of searching for an always denied sustenance, and here laid out before me, a repast of the sweetest grapes, bits of sugar caressing a tongue grown used to the often bitterness of ill-considered prose.
As midday approached I knew that this was a meal to which I’d return.
I sing a shattered song of someone else’s youth the melody forgotten the words faded into odd syllables heard in my dreams. The coyote stands at the edge of a gully staring at me and wondering why I slip from the hogan through the hole punched in the back wall slinking away in the encroaching dark. The priest, his saffron robes pulled tight around his legs in the morning chill, stares as I run my hands across the giant brass bell feeling its resonance. I hear the dirge as sleep nips at the edge of my consciousness grabbing the frayed margins of life
What are words of wisdom from the mouth of the ancient ones. I tell you these are such words. You may accept or reject them as you will. Better still, tear this page from its binding crumple it and cast it to the four winds. Let it be carried off in ten directions.
We are, he is convinced, devolving into verbal neanderthals, losing are ability to recognize the linguistic tools that once set us apart from other species, or at least so we assured ourselves. She knows that what truly sets us apart from other species is the arcane skill we have at being able to convince ourselves that delusion, firmly held, is fact. Still, she cannot disagree with him, simplicity is a too close cousin to inanity, and nuance is the first relative to be cast out. And so with ever fewer words, we seem to have ever more to say, and speaking endlessly, say ever less.
June 13, 1896, Prague a warm day, old stone schul you stood before the minyon wearing the skullcap repeating ancient words that lay on paper, rehearsed sounding false on a tongue swollen in anxiety. Your tallit, white woven with blue threads hung at your knees fringe fingered, rolled and unrolled, twisted until touched to skin words inscribed, etched into collective memory. Seventeen years later sitting with Buber did words come back and stick on your tongue and later still when you studied under Bentovim, did words take form, shape, dredging up a past kept suppressed walking in desert heat knowing salvation was down a hill, entry forbidden. Lying in your bed in Hoffman’s Sanitorium, the trees of Kierling blooming did you recite Kaddish as endless night engulfed you.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008) and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum Vol. 32, No. 1 (2008)
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It has a certain heft that says something substantial lies within, waiting to be freed. It glides easily, suggesting an effortlessness you know is a tease, that labor still waits. Still, it does said comfortably, is appealing to the eye, has the deep jade green along its barrel, the knots interwoven top and bottom that say what lies within cannot be easily unraveled. As you draw it across the page you hope that somewhere in Neamh old Robbie will look down on you, smile and share a thought or two, but that you know, is for another day.
It has taken 67 years, but I have finally arrived at what I want to do and be when I finally grow up, which should happen any day now, but please don’t hold your breath.
In this modern age, there is an ever present and growing need for euphemists, and I am perfectly suited for it.
Just this month I could have offered social distancing, not to mention those who now must shelter in place everywhere, and I’m working on several more, though I may no longer have time on my hands, lest I somehow become
collateral damage, for I know if I did I’d have to immediately wash them.
George Harrison said that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there, and on reflection it was obvious he was correct.. Today, rising from the cushion, the four vows recited, Buddha put back on his small altar, Harrison’s words echoed loudly for he understood in a moment what it has taken me years to grasp, for all roads lead to enlightenment if you simply stop searching for it. Somewhere the spirit of our departed George was laughing with me
in this moment.