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The gift of words

As a writer of poems and essays, I have a feeling for words. Images are perhaps the basic units of my craft, but words are the building blocks. Certain one shine for me like beacons in the night. Home,m for instance, has a piercing edge that cuts through the fog that sometimes descends on my soul. And soulm is a crucial word. It recurs more often in my poetry, perhaps, than any other noun except one that I'll discuss later on in this piece. I wonder if it can be an accident that homem and soulm possess a common phonetic base. The one is often visible and tangible, and the other never is: yet they are so alike as to be synonyms.

Musicm is a word that sets my soul dancing. Just this moment, not fifty feet from this sand trap on which I sit writing, four young black lads stand in a circle and sing a cappela:m "I don't want to lose your love, I don't want to lose your love. I need you now; I need you now. . ."

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The song was composed by Rudy, who is one of the singers. I can't capture the beauty of it with my symbols, but if you construe the very word -- musicm -- you might very well, in the privacy of your home,m in the depths of your soul,m capture the aura as vividly as Im can, here next to them, by using one of my physical senses. Such may be the power of a word.

Now I glance off toward the Westm . . . another stunning word, utterly in contradistinction to East.m (In what conceivable universe might the Westm be gradually illuminated at daybreak?) I perceive the first premonition of sunset.m And even at this instant, as I cross the "t" of sunset, there occurs a thrilling diminution of light that is never, never precipitated by throwing a switch or clapping one's hand over one's eyes. No. Only sunsetm produces that kind of darkening; and only the wordm sunset precisely captures the quintessence of the phenomenon.

This is the function of language: by the brilliant device of vocalization, we provide ourselves with a great tool. Language is a wondrous instrument that lets us cut away the illusions with which we find ourselves beset: illusions that otherwise might be impenetrable. It is through the deft utilization of words that we find our way to truthm . . . another grand word.

We may be very glad that words conveniently gather themselves into those little islands that we call phrases and sentences. Without these, we would be adrift upon a mad, chaotic sea, and might never fetch up at a shore.

Consider the power of these islands. A small child stands in a sea of grass, his head barely visible, and points off excitedly at a body of water. He exclaims, "Look at the ducks on the lake!" and probably we don't even realize what a splendid miracle has been wrought. For how many volumes could we not write about the mere concept of look?m What in all creation can more aptly capture the essence of duckhood than "ducks" -- used so spontaneously by an artless child? and who has ever seen or written a poem that transcends for sheer beauty the perfect word lake?m How glad we should be, for instance, that it isn't called "gerzubbul." Ducks would surely refuse to glide across the surface of a gerzubbul, and rightly so: we couldn't respect them otherwise.

Another good word is humorm that saves us from madness. It is a light viewpoint, related to hopem and courage,m and these are bound up with life:m and so we come to the grandsire and the paragon of all words: love.

I cherish that one. I turn it over and over with the reverent fingers of my mind: loving the word, adoring the actuality. I am a miser with this most precious of all jewel-words: and yet not a miser at all, for I would exuberantly share it with all the world, if only I could.

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My four friends continue to sing as the sun sinks gently in the West. More accurately, perhaps, they are expressing the miracle-word love:m "I need you now -- Doo-ooo-ooo; Shoodoo-DOOP! I need you now . . ."

And the sunset expresses love; and the sky and the earth; and the birds that perch twitteringly upon the wire fence. As we continue our mystifying journey, love occurs and occurs and occurs.

And perhaps we would never know it, you and I, if we were not endowed with the gift and the beauty and the majesty of words.m We would not be able to define or comprehend the presence of all-redemptive love.


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