You create a new word
right after dinner
and send it out to play.
It begins with a “C”
and starts out strong
but soon trips over its own round foot
and falls down the stairs
in a heap. You bend to pick it up
and cradle it to your bosom,
rocking it while it weeps. Chagrined,
you change its name
to something that begins with “E”
and suddenly, it has survived the fall
unscathed. Now, transpose
its central letters and what happens
to its story? Nothing has happened
at all, it never fell.
Isn’t this fun?
Creating new words
that mean nothing
until you give them voice?
You can’t even pronounce
these things but they’re alive
because you breathed them.
It’s a nice power to have.
You can do this as well, you know,
with those you claim to love —
say their names as if you were in charge,
remove everything that has hurt them
from those sounds, even change the names
themselves if they carry too much weight;
and if that’s too much, if the only safety
you can offer is to give them new names
in a language you can’t speak, you learn it
as fast as you can, practicing
the words where no one can hear you,
because love is always a language
invented in secret and held there
until you have strength to let it out.
Left at the top of the stairs and then another left and then a right
takes you into the blue room I lived in for years,
the room I drywalled and painted for myself with my father’s help.
I went up to see the room the last time I was by and it’s still blue.
It seems very small. It is very small.
I chose the color and the embarrassing blue shag rug.
Blue was my favorite color
and still is. I laid the oak floors here, the ones that underlie
the blue shag carpet.
Nailing through the tongues of the narrow planks, fitting the grooves to them,
the beautiful wood I covered with the blue shag carpet.
I chose the red and blue plaid curtains in the windows.
It hasn’t changed much, the curtains are dirty and still there.
I used to smoke dope out the window with a pipe I made from a radiator valve.
I used to sit there and pretend I could make it out there.
I had an FM radio and listened to freeform programming
that taught me how to hear Mickey and Sylvia
after Rashaan Roland Kirk
and stop thinking the world was rigid and orderly.
No one’s vacuumed since I left.
I found a cannabis seed in the shag carpet.
One time I dropped acid here and decided to stare at myself
in the mirror for a long time.
Afterward I took a piece of notebook paper
and wrote a whole story that sounded pretty much like this one.
If I lived here now I’d tear up this rug and see how the oak planks have held up
and if it they were still good I’d stain them and polish them
and that would be the floor.
I’d change the curtains and I’d certainly have to paint,
not blue this time, or a different blue.
Then when I was done I’d play the radio and smoke a big joint
right out in plain view of the windows,
sit there and think about Rashaan Roland Kirk
and having the blues and one working arm and no sight,
follow up by singing “Love Will Make You Fail In School”
like I haven’t in years.
It’s still true, I can vouch for that.
I wrote about it once, long ago, with a blue pen
on a piece of notebook paper that wouldn’t lie still.