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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Disappearing Words

Instead of writing, may I just sit here and dream while I watch the snow falling gently from the grey cloud that is the top edge of the dreaded Storm of the Century that they are predicting? The snow drifts down. It stops. Starts again. Material there for a day's worth of dreaming, as long as you don't ask me to bring it into words.


Am I thinking that words are over-rated? If so, it's because mine are becoming as sparse as my hair. Perhaps there is a hitherto unexplored connection between words and hair. But of course! They both involve the head! I'm on to something here. Remove the head and you may remove both problems at once! Research grant needed! Over here, boy! Bring me one king-sized research grant to investigate this spark of an idea. Now if I can just chase down some volunteers . . .


Where was I? The importance—or lack of same—of words. Here's how mine are disappearing. There's always the embarrassing question of nouns (as in a recent disappearance of "amaryllis" from my vocabulary), but that's as nothing compared to the general attrition of words. I used to say that my mind was a steel sieve (as opposed to my husband's steel trap). It is now more like a wide-mesh strainer through whose gaps most things fall. Some big blobs of words remain, but they are clunky, without subtlety or nuance. And when I reach for common, ordinary words they are no longer where I left them. The other day I was trying to come up with "vernacular" and all I could find was "demotic," which is not the same thing at all—and perhaps not even in the same ballpark.


I was imagining a word cloud of my recent writing, since it is when I write that the problem is most acute. A word cloud, I think, is a computer analysis of a piece of writing that weights each word based on frequency of usage. The more often you use a word, the larger the typeface. It is a humbling experience to see tangible evidence of the paucity of your vocabulary. I'd better move on to something less embarrassing than word clouds.


But that's just a fanciful example of what's going on in my mind. It doesn't frighten me, really, as much as perhaps it should, because I don't think it's all that uncommon. But it is so interesting. And the more I want to write about it, to document it, the fewer words I have at my disposal for the process. It does make me regret all the years when I failed to write, feeling that I had all the time in the world. I didn't realize that the issue is not time but memory.


I wrote a poem once in which I lightheartedly wondered what would happen if word-woman lost her words. I said that they would become more and more precious and would be used sparingly in poems until they were gone. At which point the poet would be left singing, "Tra-la-la, tra-la, tra-la-la." Cute idea, eh?


Well, as radio's Molly McGee used to admonish her husband, Fibber, "'Tain't funny, McGee."


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cows at Dawn

Mist diffuses red-gold morning light

across the land.

Golden cows, their long backs

straight as yardsticks,

wait for milkers to awaken.

Cowbells rattle, hollow music

calling, "Bring the pail.

Stroke our udders. Pull our teats

and take our milk. We're waiting."

In the meantime, they rub their muzzles

in grass wet with dew.


Golden haze obscures the view.

Those may be trees in the distance

near those might-be hills.

We'll wait and see.

Sun will burn off mist

and bring its own bright golden light.

All will become clear:

house unveiled,

trees with sharply separate leaves.


And cows still stand,

cream a-waiting,

future butter yearning to be churned.

There will be milk for all,

milk by the gallon.

But until the farmer comes

with his pail

that milk serves only

to fill up and pull down

ballooning udders.


Strong-backed, patient, russet cows

nibble grass already closely cropped.

Still and silent in the gold

they attend their tardy farmer's wake-up.

Dew on grass moistens muzzles

nuzzling tiny spears of green.

All those stomachs strongly work

turning grass into our milk

in golden light of morning.


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hardly Myself at All

If I am not myself, who am I?

A heron, lifting wide wings

in her take-off to eternity?

A hedgehog, prickling

when necessary to maintain her solitude?


Within me, within you is the history

of the great mystery of life.

We quest.

We seek to answer the unanswerable,

pushed by what perversity?

Do we really want to solve the mystery?

Would we even recognize

the answer presenting itself?

Not that it would, of course,

because the nature of mystery

is not to be solved.


Better to give up the quest and simply live.

It will all be made clear

in the end. Our end.

Count on it.

Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor