Written by Julie Akins
My father was a thesaurus and my mother a dictionary. I spilled from their pages with all their words and the words of my ancestors in an inky black soup of memory and meaning, most of which I still don’t understand.
She: Words have specific definition and structure, black and white. There are rules which do not include error or fluidity.
He: It’s tricky. Words may have many meanings, the context is not measurable for all the possibilities. One must not seek to control or catalog but languish in language.
Words are grandmother’s boney hands moving in her soul’s music as she whispers in Yiddish, words are those unspoken between lovers as they stare, words are what I didn’t say when my heart fell and broke open that day spilling its blood and ink silently around us. Words alter the course of history and rivers..you and me. Words are what we have when there is nothing else. Yet even then they may slip away leaving us lonely when we need them most.
Words can cure us then kill us. Words can be heartless bitches.
Words follow me now, chasing me through the spinning of the second hand of a humming clock,
“…if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little…”*
Sometimes I reach deep in my bones beyond love and loss through time and timelessness and I find these words scrawled somewhere at the bottom of me..
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you….”
My father took himself..the thesaurus.. with him when he boarded his last boat deep into the blueness of his own eyes, the words he left me, “You are the kind one…” I hold them with the good and evil I have kept for him in his context of too many things and endless meanings, the folded crossword with one letter still missing.
My mother still works that crossword. But sometimes even dictionaries do not have enough letters. Black and white cannot find the nuance, not all problems have solutions perhaps.
For what is beauty if not you and the turn of your lip or scowl of your brow? Perhaps it is within the ten thousand things, the subtle sweetness of the Earth, the silence of the sparrow or the sorrow of the stolen which may one day turn to spring,
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated…”
Can I be followed into the light and dark of these words? I think it not so, yet I hope it so fondly I am sent into the libraries of time, rummaging forgotten volumes for keys to that jeweled box you keep from me in the back of that place that only feels like home.
If I cannot be found I am still not so lost words will not come for me,
“… in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten”
Words may not abandon me, they will hold me together as the gods of my aspirations. Maybe they will be my only lovers, maybe they will bring me flesh and bone but surely they will speak to me of their passion howling through the folds of memory and resting silently- smiling at their destruction.
My mother was a dictionary and my father a thesaurus. I am caught between them seeking meanings.
*Excerpted from “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda.