In the beginning, there were words: Ten for Today

I’m tired of beginnings. They’re exhausting, and it’s awfully hard to get them right. There’s nothing worse than starting something with a “meh”. Like reading a listicle that starts with a question: Are you getting enough vitamin B in your diet? Well here are 7 sources of that … blah, blah, blah.

I’m guilty of that sort of thing. It’s trite and boring.
Opening lines, like handshakes, create an impression. In grand literature, they’re extraordinary, memorable, once in a life time handshake that keeps on gripping you. Even my little-read college students have heard the line, “It was the best of times…” But Dickens is not alone or even the top of the greatest hits of first liners.
I like intriguing first liners like Philip Roth’s one about awakening one day to find himself an enormous breast–“It began oddly.” Or short punchy ones, like “I am not a total idiot.” I actually don’t remember the author of that one, but the line has stuck with me. Maybe that’s just me, and what sticks is random.
It’s challenging to be unique, innovative, and first in language. After all, we have only 26 letters at our disposal. How different can we be? Haven’t all the possible letter combinations been tapped? Is there still some one-of-a-kind combination yet to be splayed linearly across a page? Maybe that’s why I’m so fond of making up words that seem intuitively and associatively clear.
Though I suspect you don’t have to go that far to pen something new. Memoirist Patricia Hampl claims describing what you see, what you know, from your eyes alone is unique enough. No one’s lived your life or sees things precisely the way you do. Perspective. Lens.
It may not be a new alphabet, but it’s vision–and all that we’ve got.

Spider in the Shower Wisdom


In an age of so much door-stop wisdom in flashy colors and streams,

Profundity hides harder to recognize in tastes-great–less-filling sweetie ah-bites.

And when everyone’s grandmother publishes, words do not come easily any more, all lost in 

Endless letters combined, re-combined and strewn everywhere, making 

Nonsense seem sense or not even bothering, words without aching indescribably churning or heart-

Rent fluid affecting, infectious and ever-in-the ears and eyes inscription, just syllables,

nothing more. 

I can’t hear myself think over the noise of it, the shrill deprecating humor,

Blunt, sword-slicing insults and chiding, scolding and deriding, nothing but chatter-ful ticks.

How to be mindful when the mind chitters and bakes under the halitosis heat?

Sweltering  discomfort in knowing my life is in the hands of self-sabotaging

Zealots and bonzai bitchers and moaners, paraders and inert blabberers.

But there is some thing, something…

I see it in the piss-yellow plumped plastic medicine bag

pole-hanging to high heaven

with streaming liquid hope in thin rubber tubes of curative culture like an i.v. of satisfaction.

It’s there in the splayed legs of a stiffening spider fending off the drain holes’ draw

with the unfathomable force that those toothpick sticks belie as the pounding punishing pulse of the

thunderous shower stream pushes and the suction below pulls.

That’s the way it is with nature and words, that suspension between sense and salvation.

In Love…

“In love there are two things–bodies and words.” Joyce Carol Oates

And her rejoinder to me: “Our two bodies are our words–hello and good bye.”

The Heart of Empathy Speaks

I fell in love with foreign languages from before I could speak,

From Mother Goose nursery rhymes chanted to childhood,

Singing me through my days in silly lilting jibberish tolling tales–

Mesmerizing wispy wild figures sticking thumbs in plum pies

Or eating mystical morsels named curds and whey on a tuffet.

Then in college, I pined for the secret to unlock the hearts of 

Spanish, French and Russian poets, painters and culture magicians.

I cracked the code to some, forming strained lipped sounds,

Writing winsome words in chipped or open gullet accents  or

Symbols to sounds unmade, unimagined and click ticklish

until I could not remember my own tongue.

But after college, language tore at me, ripped me up

And left me dull, licit and languishing in legal triangles,

Endless geometry of angles, degrees and lines.

The law sandpapered language across imagination’s landscape,

Smoothed my edges in deeper, rounder archetypal paths, pregnancy, 

Until I lost Octavio Paz’s meter sanded out in childrearing recipes

Swapped with Guatemalan nannies.

Pellucid sentences peeled off like shredded wallpaper skin,

Their luster gone with a youthful jaunt, hop, gleam and trigger,

Flashed in skipping stones, falling in love and hopping fences

Round speedways, parks and wood clearings where music moved 

Us, loins and feet to primal noun-less, soundless speech, 

Just to see,  get a glimpse at lip-sung words beyond the barriers, 

Risking liberty and future, impelled by lusty mischief and rush.

Back then, I had to hear them sung in tune-ful missives keyed only to me.

And now, the remaining hash of come and gone, bright and dark, transforms

Acidic intestinal stew to sorcerer’s clairvoyant elixir: my gut tells me.

Among the clamorous hate-filled speeches and cautious creeds non-offending,

Blasted in soldiered lies and political stomps, and on uncivil, anti-social media,

The gurgle steels me listen to us, be your pain, own my heated core as if it were 

The world’s sole lingual ignition; the ravenous merging urge to swallow me up,

The kind you write in erotic type and imagery possessing, owning my pulse–

These are mere smoke signals, the wink-less language of I know you as I am.  

In the aftermath of lived language, word dross, let us, you and me, tutor empathy,

The Esperanza of human kindness,  re-remembered swish and slosh in thickish silent

 womb–connected to another’s rhymes and rhythms, as the song. 




Hooked on believing I harbor no addictions,
I circle the perimeter of consolation.
I smoked for years, 

but I stayed quit for years too, 

returned and stopped again.

And yes, 

lurching from bouts of drinking 

to sobriety and back may sound obsessive.

But absolution bears no compulsion

nor is it addiction. 

Or is it?

I cop to compulsions, 


fleeting ones like finishing things, 

completing what I started, 

books, courses, paths, dinner plans, 

stuff like that.

I used to obey rules for the hell of it, 

something compelling and lovely in the rule, 

the principle and the law emitting a magic that moved me.

Until I lost the lust for it, 

cooled on the perfection and rigidity of the line,

the truth of the right angle.

Balancing on the nuance of tightropes flashed a softer luminosity of right.

Since then, 

the lapping years ate those twists and flavors forward to calibration.


I leap less, 

wheeze disbelief in equations like cause and effect, 

rules too tight

patterns as solutions,


not any more, 

the insecurity submerged, 


moored to the mystery of ignorance.

Dark matter. 

Yet the words


pour me over the rocks and smoke me



flaming swells of urgency




gnaw it off the bone

and bloody ears of vein-hydrant flood quelling.

The irresistible line draws me

circumscribed and subsumed complete.


Stitched Poem of Lost Word


A word came to my mind today in chimes

where wood reeds stood sand tall in pairs

like lovers spun in airy tales of olden times

when hearts sang of heather seed prayers.

But the word flew past as echoes’ remains,

rang void vacuumed sound inside the gaps,

hollows down from which arise sad refrains,

and compressed steely safes, worded traps.

No words came by today in orange branches

only windy specks prickling chapped cheeks;

a sun stole glitter flecks on roofs of mansions

and barren pop songs dribbled old lyric leaks.

Language lost mourns words gone dry before

a poem’s purl through a keyhole’s open door.


photo credit:

Words That Matter (the word remains the thing)

Words That Matter (the words remain the thing)

You speak my language, my native tongue, English. To lay those English sentences down, it takes a subject, verb and object. That is the structure. That is how we make sense of things, and it is important that we do. Otherwise, we would be wallowing in the morass of uncoded conceptions and emotions. We would act almost always in anger. Words that form sentences matter, create ideas, images and bodies, so it is of upper most importance that the words are formed correctly–with precision and conciseness, following a decipherable and familiar pattern. You get that. And it starts with a subject, or often does, the focus of the missive.

We have tossed around many subjects, some drifting on to paper or keyboard, some merely dissipating into air, but so many subjects of sentences, so many sentences. We talk. We write. Subjects such as literacy and love, war and music, health and art, and all range of matters in between pass between us in breath and beamed icons and pictures. Ideas stimulate our minds and bodies, bodies that matter, words that form bodies that matter, not mere objects.

But getting back to subjects we form, the sentences that begin with the subject “I”, meaning “he” or “she”, “you” or “me”, seize attention. My head turns in the direction of the mouth from which the sentence is about to form. Your eyes widen. What does she want? What does he need? The pronoun produces endless possibility, endless speculation about the mere physical presence and perpetuation of life, another life before each of us, breathing, eating, shitting, sexing, as well as the psycho-emotional, loving, hurting, sensing, dying. What will the sentence bring?

The worst one begins, “I have something to tell you,” especially if it begins with the pronoun and then pauses, freeze framed in fear for the speaker and the listener alike. Like running into a loose dog in the park that you hadn’t seen but all of the sudden spy just at the periphery of your previously straight sight on your path, on the way to your destination, you stop, suspended in time for seconds to turn up those senses you rarely perceive, the acute ones ratcheted up to superhuman strength in order to listen to danger in your finger tips or smell fear with your eyes. Will he strike or let me pass? The seconds of ice sculpted figures in time, you on the path and the narrowed eyes of the supposed beast behind the tree, enlarge space and moment, dive into the essence of living, of human. It means life in so far as it is a suspension of time elapsing at the end of which something will be known, the stretch between the idea of something and the knowing of it. But the knowing does not ease the dread. No one wants to die, be wounded, senseless as that is. Not all sentences that begin with foreboding turn out to be perilous.

The sentences that begin with subjects that are merely nouns are the most entertaining. There is no attachment, or at least there doesn’t have to be. To start a sentence with “The war…” is one that divides, gets listeners prepared to be het up. No matter what, there is going to be engagement, disengagement, injury, surrender, and the like, but no one really needs to get hurt, no one with presence of mind to understand that the killing and dying and injustice are out there in space, even if it is occurring in the neighborhood. I am not saying there is no fear. There is. But the words formed, the mere act of forming those words, means the speaker or writer is with an audience and the war is an idea. Both or all are alive. The rest is in forming the right sentences that contain the most effective verbs to produce the right action. You see? Keep pronouns out of the sentence, and the subject is not real, merely notion, possibility or speculation; sometimes it is a call to action.

Unlike Chinese, English is a verb-oriented language, emphasizing states of action as opposed to a noun-oriented language, which water colors states of being across the silken screen of sentience in vertical word pictures. The verbs in English are thought to be the meat of the English sentence, but I disagree. Verbs are action, doing, even when there is very little movement going on, like being, feeling, postulating and sensing. But I believe the sentence’s weight, what matters, is the body of the sentence, the subject, the pronoun or noun, whether proper, common or gerund. Some would say the body is the predicate, which contains the verb, and the head, the direction or focus, is the subject. I disagree. The sentence could begin and end with “I”, “you”, he”, “she” or “it”. To me, those matter. They do. They are. You are not what you do. You matter there as mass of tendons, sinews and neurons; it matters as brick, mortar and steel. It does.

And sentences with objects, those are tricky. What we do with objects–do to object–and who we objectify is problematic. An object can turn a sentence inside out, turn back on itself, whether passively or actively. “I don’t like you” is a sentence with an object, an object that is distanced from the subject by legions and the division is clear, one of thick emotional boundary. Objects are others, polarizing, because objects that are one with us are only thought of as self; however, ordinary objects, the way we think of them every day, every moment of the day, and the way we think of ourselves is as the self–one thing–separate and apart from others, other people and things, other objects. We objectify ourselves and others, as if they were the earth and the sky, the lake and the dock, the murderer and the victim, the heart and the mind–opposites, contingent, contiguous, adjacent–but sometimes a part, never object and subject as one.

The sentence “I don’t like you” does not make sense without the emoter, without the I. Though we sometimes speak like that, cowering before our own emotion…don’t like you. Eliminating the pronoun forces us to silently hear the pronoun that is not uttered, and the speaker or writer elides it perhaps because the emotion is distasteful to the “I” or the “I” is uncomfortable with the anticipated reaction or feelings of the objectified target of the missile. He feels guilt or projects rejection. The missing pronoun lets him off the hook. There is no “I” who dislikes, just the disliking.

But creating objects shows a failure of understanding. There are no objects. Objects should not be standard for sentences. I like that sentences can be formed without objects: I am. He lives. You sleep. Too many sentences need objects; too many people need canvases on which to spray, drip, brush or project their emotions, ideas, and secretions. Imagine a world without objects, only subjects. Where would our minds go?

I think you know the answer. Or if you don’t, you understand the question. We speak the same language, even though we use the same words only to come up with different interpretations, conclusions and impressions. We misunderstand each other often, you creating me with words, forming my body, my needs, my goals, while I do the same for you. I paint you as the man who needs all three of me, and you draw the figure of curvaceous kitten who drinks the milk of many. We are both wrong, abuse language, and are poor artists, poor proofreaders, though fine editors. I am not embarrassed to revise and neither are you, brave enough not to forego failure. So, I misread, misspeak, misstep. We forgive. Sentences there are a plenty to spew, erase, craft and polish. They are our trade and livelihood.

The question of subject and object preoccupies me, though. The manic attempt to merge, to merge and merge and merge, is futile effort like banging your head on concretions when you should be hammocking in abstractions. You say it is the moment, the glimpse of nirvana, but you have reversed it all, turned it inside out and now the verb is all I can think of. To merge is–and you know this–an acknowledgment that we are not one. Can you be matter, stand there before me, naked or clothed, smiling or frowning, eyes rolled back in ecstasy or fury, and not be my Frankenstein? We meet in a pun, the wink of words. Our tongues touch, licking tips of twists of irony or singeing sarcasm. I create your desire, your will to live. I write you. You speak me. Like genies from the bottle we appear limitless, magical and wish-come-true filled, what we have been waiting for. But fantasy is another story. Only we are the stories that we tell, the matter, you writing yours, me mine in poems, conversations and fiction flashes.

It starts with the sentence–subject and verb. Contractions and commas, flow of phrases and long, listing strands of wispy parts of speech dotting the shoreline, shells in the sand, stars in the sky, they precede, intercede and succeed. The space between each shell, each star, each word, is the mystery, the place without object, the place of matter and no matter, no idea of what it could be, what matters. A place no word can contain, no thought can hold is the reason for the unreality of objects. The empty linguistic space is not nirvana nor is it non-space. There are no words. You know that. We speak the same language. Let’s go there.