When Words Fail

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They are slippery, evasive, coy,
dangling on our tongues,
sometimes, yes, at the tip,
and sometimes on an edge,
not big enough to bite,
or near enough to taste,
resting on molars, or canines,
before vanishing
and reappearing in a flicker,

Once in a while, they are gremlins,
gumming up the works,
wreaking havoc.

But it always seems the ones we deeply crave,
those that will plait our thoughts
into a seamless chain,
dodge into remote, cranial crevices
when we call them.

And then it takes four or five or six words
to say, all too poorly, what one would have said—
the one which won’t be found in a thesaurus
because even its synonyms have hidden in solidarity.

Those are the words that keep us
imagining they’ve been sucked
from their shallow holes
into some bottomless eddy.

Those are the words that really bedevil.

Until, by some miracle—
spring, mostly,
their noses reemerge,
unguarded, quivering, curious,
and ready to multiply….

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Have you ever noticed a scent coming back to you hours or days after you inhaled it, as fresh and as potent as it was? And have you noticed that memories associated with that scent come rushing back as well? And that the same thing happens with objects you may see? Or sounds you may hear? A train whistle fading as it passes, a siren rushing to an emergency? Wind chimes warning of an approaching storm?

My head has been swarming with thoughts and memories, dredged up by sensory overload. I could drown out the noise by focusing on yet another volume of fictional angst and fury that dwarfs my own, as I have been doing the past month, but today I yearn only to bake bread.

There’s something wholly satisfying about proofing yeast, the stringent, heady vapors it produces, blending ingredients, small batches at a time until they form a dough that can be twisted, pounded, and kneaded into a satiny mass, rolled into a greased bowl and left to rise, only to be worked again. And when the dough is ready to bake—having been dressed with beaten egg or butter, its aroma rises from the oven, saturating the air, replacing all the other offending scents and sights and sounds with the knowledge that nourishment and pleasure are in the future, along with the joy of that first warm bite, slathered with honey or butter or nothing.

How sweet to look at that glistening, golden braid, or round, or loaf, and say, I made that. How thoroughly soothing; how incomparably delicious.

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Off Course

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I had two things in mind when I started this post.

The first was trajectory in writing.

The second was sentimentality.

I always think I have a clear trajectory until the story line veers into sentimentality, and then my inner critic, a snaggle toothed harpy from Writers’ Hell, named, Griselda, sets her jaundiced eye on my tenderest outpourings, and pokes me with her hat pin, sniping, “Not on my watch, dearie.”

I looked for an image that would demonstrate what I’m talking about, but no one has yet drawn Griselda to my satisfaction, and trajectory gave me pages of diagrams and equations, which left me with sentimentality. Tons of hearts and flowers and teddy bears. No, no, no, better to look for synonyms. Would sweet do? Yes, perhaps. Except sweet led me to recall a perfectly sublime chocolate bar I used to buy in Budapest which, sadly, is not being manufactured anymore. I brought two dozen of those back to the U.S. during that awful Hoof-and-Mouth outbreak of 2001. The customs official looked inside my bag, saw the bars peeking out and said, “What have you got in there?” When I said, “Chocolate bars,” he rolled his eyes and told me to move along. I did discover a new line of chocolate bars made by the same Hungarian company that made the chocolate bars I loved. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they are being sold in the U.S….

Oh, my. I’ve done it again, haven’t I?

Well, I think I think I can find my way, at least with my latest oeuvre; but if I can’t, Griselda will undoubtedly let me know.

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