“I’m serial,” he used to say,
a child with lips stretched tight
and fists clenched in earnestness;
and then,”How ruve!” when we laughed.
His vocabulary was sophisticated
for a child of eight,
and yet childish in its imprecision.
One letter switched, or three,
can bring about the opposite of the effect intended.
“Possumbly” can put one’s whole argument
into question. “I mean maybe!”
make one’s firmest assertions laughable.
How staunchly we defend
the walls around our words, as though
corralling them controls the world.
And yet we have so little control
who bend them to their will.
Though we may know the sound of words,
we do not always know the truth of them.
Some trust the word itself to proclaim truth
despite the facts. Thus do certain words
seem to carry a power of their own. Religion.
Country. Safety. Patriotism. No matter what the deed,
declare it in defense of one of these,
and there are those who will believe you to speak truth.
There are those
who have the power of making words march
straight ahead in noble order while their truth lies low in camouflage.
We are so accustomed to what parades as reality
that we believe these staunch maneuverings,
listened to like an old radio play
or its newest replacement, the reality show.
They entertain us with the sound if not the depth of what they say:
creative pronouncements, slogans, sputterings,
until the truth of words dies out
and they are shells of words,
scattered upon the beach
for our collection,
put upon a shelf just for display.
Their center gone, they join an empty world
devoid of air and life.
No water to drink.
No meat of words to chew on.
Thus is the power of words
to feed us or to strip us of our world.
A child’s innocent mispronouncements,
or the false pronouncements of a fool.
The prompt today was seriousness.