Saturday, July 19, 2008

syllable after syllable


Words are betrayers, gathering in great number all around you as the attack is planned, then fleeing entirely and leaving you alone with nothing but a searing-hot sternum and a lame, listless tongue.

All my life, I've been a stranger to the languages around me. The stacatto syncopation of military acronyms; long strings of letters like popcorn garlands. The shivering, sensuous musicality of isthmian Spanish, a dance I adored but never mastered. The bespoke royal tongue of the wine country, which I swished in my mouth to rinse away the truth of an upbringing not gilt in resplendent wealth. Even as a tiny child, surrounded by pitter-pattering Tagalog, I lay awash in the sound of it without communication taking place.

Even now, in this place where dialogue is a thriving industry - the chief export of the region, manufactured in massive quantities in great twittering factories and distributed for global use - I retch at the cheapness of it all. The factories put their words into beautiful hired mouths, and carve them into sidewalks, and pretend that they've done something religious for sharing them. It's a sham. They're producing gaudy costume jewelry for lackluster conversations.

I wish I had something better than words to make myself known; something with the wherewithall to convey this sense of drifting history and grey horizon. Something to show you what's wrong, and something to tell you how to correct it. I want to sew my mouth and show you in some other way the passion and the disappointment and the rage and the lust.

Let language bind my hands, and let the light spill forth regardless.

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