Words Rising


“We are bees then; our honey is language.”
– Robert Bly

WORDS RISING 

I open my journal, write a few

sounds with green ink, and suddenly

fierceness enters me, stars

begin to revolve, and to pick up

alligator dust from under the ocean.

The music comes, I feel the bushy

tail of the Great Bear

reach down and brush the sea floor.
All those lives we lived in the sunlit

shelves of the Dordogne, the thousand

tunes we sang to the skeletons

of Papua, the many times

we died – wounded – under the cloak

of an animal’s sniffing, all of these

return, and the grassy nights

we ran in the moonlight for hours.
Watery syllables come welling up.

Anger that barked and howled in the cave,

the luminous head of barley

the priest holds up, growls

from under fur, none of that is lost!

The old earth fragrance remains

in the word “and.” We experience

“the” in its lonely suffering.
We are bees then; language is the honey.

Now the honey lies stored in caves

beneath us, and the sound of words

carries what we do not.

When a man or woman feeds a few words

with private grief, the shames we knew

before we could invent

the wheel, then words grow. We slip out

into farmyards, where rabbits lie

stretched out on the ground for buyers.

Wicker baskets and hanged men

come to us as stanzas and vowels.

We see a million hands with dusty

palms turned up inside each verb,

lifted. There are eternal vows

held in the word “Jericho.”
Blessing them on the man who labors

in his tiny room, writing stanzas on the lamb;

blessings on the woman, who picks the brown

seeds of solitude in afternoon light

out of the black seeds of loneliness.

And blessings on the dictionary maker, huddled among

his bearded words, and on the setter of songs

who sleeps at night inside his violin case.

– Robert Bly

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