The Words

by You Have My Word

I ask her: “Do you enjoy listening to poetry?” and without enough time-space for a heartbeat to break the rhythm she says “Only just as much as I like breathing.” And I fight not to hold my own breath as the sentence loses the last of its wind like the emptying of an old church organ.

Inhale. Let words ascend your throat to arabesque on your taste-bud pin heads. Exhale. Pray they don’t abseil your mountain lips meaningless. Do not let them fall short but teach them to climb high and descend carefully through cracks and crags because if rock-climb ropes snags and snaps you can’t magic man back track so don’t snap for me if my words don’t bite your tongue. Do not clap for me if I don’t lay rhythm that runs. Sometimes I lie half-awake hoping that the constant beating I impose on my ear drums will remind my heart how much it likes the safety of the silence when it comes.

Because listening to the same song over and over again takes me different places and reading the same story over and over again tells me different faces and I wish that if I said the same words enough times in enough different ways they’d teach me to think different of myself. Beautiful. BEAUTY full. Beauty FULL. Beautiful. Still nothing. I was never told that although the dictionary describes the meaning of words it can never ascribe meaning to people.

And it’s a lonely life to lead if your best friend is a pistol to your head. You begin to understand that in order to be understood you’ve got to speak steel words, you’ve got to learn to make love to lead. Pull back. Gun shot. Skin pop. Body drop. Full stop. Here, words replace wounds like prosthetic limbs pretending to be the real thing but they will never have pulsating heartbeat pumping in them.

I ask her: “Do you enjoy listening to poetry?” and without enough time-space for a scarlet wave to break within her veins she says “Only just as much as I like breathing.” And I begin to write, etching my soul into the lineage of trees where there are wizards drawing wisdom from words buried beneath the soles of forests’ feet.

This is not a process; this is the path I walk. This is not a path less travelled for there are barbarian armies that have braved butchered battlefields before me. This is a crowded walk – it is as though no one has walked here and yet all have walked here at the same time. Humans acting as landmarks so ignore the road signs. Dream. Go far. Forget who you are and learn the names of galaxies you’ll never have the privilege of shaking hands with. Come back to earth and delve into the depths – the places where words fit my palms and pen tips like ocean floors eat sinking ships.

Do not drown. Look around. Admire the wreckage and be grateful it’s not you. And it’s not me.

I am not ship wreck. I am not hidden treasure. I am not eroding soul. I am not lost.

I am North and South Pole. I am true. I am unmoved but travelled.  I am gentle strength unrivalled.

I am mind. I am body. I put “art” into heart. I am learning to breathe a new way, a pure way.

I wonder why she never asked me if I enjoyed listening to poetry and perhaps that’s because she knew that’s how I’d been surviving all along.