Tuesday, July 20, 2010

57. The Quiet Expression of Sap from the Alphabet

I am filled with happiness
or its corollary, or I am filled
with the absence of happiness,
a kind of cool jelly, some sweet
fragrant thing that leaves no trace.

It may be air or
an air of something,
maybe grace, maybe the graceless
movement of the body
fighting sleep or alcohol or
the lack of breath.

You might know it
as chalkdust, as letter, as
word, as the proportions of letters,
as the sound of chalk on the board, as a word
left to respond to a letter, as directions
towards the form of letters, as
the smallest part of the letter yet
the most important
to its meaning.

Where is the tail
of the y? Why does it
wag only when
we are not looking?

Or there is the sense from it
of falling, of falling away, of revealing
what was there all along,
the long nose of the J, how the i
blinks along the frame of the
sentence, where the O falls
apart under the weight of
its own perfection.

We look closely at
the letter of our language, expecting
meaning from the extension
of a serif, hoping for the surprise of
a missing tittle, the small
laugh of the letter
a as it begins
the alphabet, the languid snoring
of the z.

Animal of blood,
moving like a river, animal of
breath, moving like a storm,
animal of muscle, moving
like a tension, like current
through a wire, these are the things
that make us mean and
fashion from what is left behind
a redoubt against what
we cannot believe, what we
cannot hope to imagine. Pane,
but glass, a porthole, the view out through
into a green world, maybe a too-green
world, the riot of summer and weeds
growing between the fingers of a hand. We
cannot move for fear of being overtaken
by burgeon and burgeoning, by
burgeoning forth. Hold back the
tiniest wisp of a whisper, the smallest
sense of language, maybe just a scent, something
rich and earthy, some hint that we
are human bodies, filled with human
blood and bone and flesh and skin
holding it all in so that
we will not fall apart.

You understand the outlines of it
(the H, say, or a regal R), how the particular
slope of a line means more than an entire sentence.
You see the letter consecrated
before you, existing as the temple
of meaning, the only dependable part of any
communication. Only the letter does not
lie, fallow as a vagrant thought,
a slight wind (zephyr) rides through
your thoughts, you remember a story about
the time when you wrote with the wrong
hand, or a line went wrong, you figured out
how to right it (write it), make it
be, how the only shape that matters
is the shape that speaks
silently and always to you.

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