Wednesday, 27 May 2009

other tongues


a moment ago two members of our table started talking at once and it’s now deteriorated into a shouting game of words collapsing into a barrage of meaningless sounds getting louder and louder as i shunt my chair back and am met by yet more grunting noises coming this time from the table behind where steve is girning his jaw jutting forward in primordial birthing groans his eyes wide and excited as he surges out of his seat towards me barking OTTER! OTTER! pressing both forefingers into his shoulders gesturing at himself or maybe inside himself to where there’s the thought of a whiskered face twitching black eyed glossy painted coat slipping sleek from the waters and into the room as a blurted word that was bred when a sign and an idea converged in his mind nurtured within and sustained by thought until the time he set it free as a pronouncement which reminds me that words depend on a person to speak them first bumping about within us fusing with concepts until satiated with meaning they’re ready to go only steve has only ever raised two nouns and the other is OWL! which he’s now shouting loudly and even though it appears alone without pronoun or verb everybody knows what he means because owls have been all steve’s thought about since the day he saw one at the sanctuary sitting serenely hooked on a leather glove its speckled feathers overlapping in downy layers and fluffing up around its eyes like marbles yellow ochre orange flashes sunk inside a perfect sphere and perhaps at that hypnotic moment someone named it because since that day it’s practically all he’ll say sounding out that soft vowel its tender note blunted and unthreatening as the owl’s silent look its rounded eyes resembling his lips when they close over the letter showing that words and their meanings
might come from the same place after all


your wet straw hair flat on your head and grey on your lip feet stuffed into navy booties tied with three velcro straps pulled tight-as-string-round-pork-joint toes twisting magnets together the first time we meet in this yellow-linoleum bright yellow room over lunch boxes curling smells of plastic and old sandwiches as you’re telling me your mum’s eighty this month and’s got a bad hip and i say “sorry” and you say my pleasure now asking me how old’s mine and i tell you “fifty-one” and your straw eyebrows spring up as you say ooooohhh…she don’t look it and my lips twitch because you’ve never met but it’s no joke apparently and later in the warm yellow swimming baths we deranged wind up toys bob round the whirlpool you glide past me blinking giant purple goggles shouting LIKE I ALWAYS SAY IF YOU CAN’T BEAT EM JOIN EM! but you’ve swum here for thirty years and now you’re sliding away from me in your wake the wreckage the confusion the derailment of the night service from thought central to phrase junction and these constant accidents of meaning because you’ve heard us trot out clichés racing so fast from the sense in our heads to its articulation that we miss the image on the way but you still want to be like us on our high speed trains yawning snoring through the journey with blinds down not seeing the fields or the greener grass on the other side or the ponds where the bright crystals slide off a duck’s waxy back blindly past over hill dale cairn piled up stones left unturned by polycrates sleeping all the way there and out on the platform where we’re met with open arms relieved and understood which is all you really want just like the rest of us only there’s something wrong with the switch in your network a problem with the signal which sends you down the wrong track to a station where no one on the platform recognises you so the next time over wordsearches biros cups of pale tea you turn to tell me all you need is love i don’t know where you’ve come from but decide simply to agree and you reply
i’d say so thats what i’d say

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