Monday, September 26, 2011

Are there words? (Trying to get my attention)

They’re not sending me messages, are they?

By they, I mean these words.

I’ve told myself,
told myself more than once, in fact,
It’s just coincidence.

But the whole time, I’m thinking to myself,
If I’m telling myself this,
more than once,
once not being enough to convince,
I must not be convinced.

What should I call it,
the chance meetings I have with words?

They’re not everyday words.

They’re not even rainy day words
I’d save and savor to use later,
when the right occasion drops round and wet,
but words I never use,
not once,
and surely not twice in such a short time.

Take simony.

I couldn’t define simony,
but there it was,
and there again for me to find.

What is it?

I looked it up,
it’s, An act of buying and selling
ecclesiastical offices and pardons

Don’t bother using it in a sentence,
no one today could make sense of you or it.

Yet there it was, on the bulletin board
outside a cutout church, inside Canto XIX
and a puppet’s Inferno.

My mind’s tongue rolled it around, si-mon-y,
and it sounded as antique and mysterious
as the original poet’s Italian.

O Simon mago, o miseri sequaci
che le cose di Dio, che di bontate
deon essere spose, e voi rapace
per oro e per argento avolterate
or convien che per voi suoni la tromba,
pero’ che ne la terza bogia state.

It was too ancient to hold onto,
and I let it go wherever the words go
when we don’t want to keep them.

Yet there it was again, the morning after Dante
had wandered off into his deeper circles.

I don’t play eeny-meeny-miny-moe,
not one-potato or two, but I will let my finger roam
across the spines of my three shelves of paperbacks,
and like a divining rod, it picks what it’s drawn to.

It stopped on Dubliners,
and when I opened it, I saw
simony there again on the first page of The Sisters:

Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being.

Seeing simony again, I didn’t feel the same,
but the feeling wasn’t dissimilar
to seeing the name of the one you love,
the way that name seems to show up everywhere
you look, though it’s not seeing so much as noticing,
at a time when the one you love’s name
is the only word worth noticing.

And no matter how commonly the name is found,
bound up with her or him, it sounds like
the name of some magnificent and sinless being,
a lot like Dante’s Beatrice,
come to think of it.

A few letters can also take dominion over a page,
when the word or name has a newness,
lacking the history and the intimacy of the familiar,
or the loved.

The first time Joyce’s narrator speaks,
I don’t know,
whether the child is a boy or a girl,
what particular age this child is,
how tall or short,
thin or fat, so the voice floats there
a blank to be filled in as I get more words.

The meaning of my meeting
floats with it,
but more words may not come,
and the old words are all I have to explain it,
so I tell myself again,
It must be coincidence.
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