Thursday, July 09, 2015

In a Time of Drought

Already, September hints, the curtains will fall
and the bare limbs of the trees
will tell their secrets again in an urgent whisper,
while the rain 
runs down the hidden paisley gutters of the glass
back and forth, tracing the unseen curves like a finger 
tracing the features of a dreaming friend.

And you listen, you listen hard, but
it's too fast, and there are names you do not know,
names such as "Alteridae" or "Windfool,"
so the syllables keep running, faster than you can hear,
and the secrets keep themselves.

Still, the trees stand, older than us and prouder,
and the leaves are thick now, from the valley to the hill;
sap spills over, leaf by leaf, 
and the city brick is sticky underfoot.
There is no God but God and God
is a voiced velar stop, follow by a back vowel, culminating
in a voiced apico-alveolar stop.

In the beginning, we are told, was the word,
not the speaker. In which case also
the beginning was the leaf, and the tree perhaps
an afterthought, slowly bringing a sky in its wake,
and drawing a new sun up over the horizon
filling the world with the light of its desire;
and last of all 

Have you ever thought of how in English,
the beginning of God is a sort of strangling,
a drowning and a death? And once started, 
you must go on, delivering what breath remains to you?
Only then do you tap the aveolar ridge
with your tongue, one last expense of breath,
and after that act of faith, only after, 
do you get to breathe again. 

Other languages, other stories, no doubt;
and the rain will rain harder this Fall 
than it has ever rained before: 
this summer longs for the falling rain
as the word longs for a voice.


Dale said...

"Velar" means "of the velum," or the soft palate, and a velar stop is a consonant sound made by pressing the back the tongue against the velum, pushing the air against it, and letting it go: a "hard g" we call it, when voiced. The alveolar ridge is the jutting shelf behind the teeth: English makes 't' and 'd' by tapping the tip of the tongue (the apex, hence "apico-") against it. Now you know.

rbarenblat said...

Oh, Dale, this is so beautiful.

Rouchswalwe said...

Oh, my days in linguistics courses ... you've reminded me. I almost lost my appreciation of the beauty of the sound and feel of words. Your poem brings this verdancy alive. thank you!

Kristen Burkholder said...

aw heck there you've gone and done it again. more splendidness. I love the bit on God and the English tongue.

Jo said...

Wow. Again... this is beautiful. I have always loved the expression 'God is in the trees'.

Lucy said...

'God in the whizzing of a pleasant wind
Shall march along the tops of mulberry trees'

I remember once reading that the very old Germanic root of the word 'god' was connected with a word for 'voice', don't know if it's true.