Passion Words

November 24, 2009

This is a piece I wrote in writing workshop in 1997.  I have recited it at or around the beginning of every one of my cabaret-concert style performances in Portland, Oregon in the last two years. A show that uses the works ofJacques Brel, Tom Lehrer, Edith Piaf and Flanders & Swan to illustrate how pwerful words really are, in song. It seems to resonate with the audiences I attract. You tell me what you think..

“I love words, can’t get enough of them. I buy books just to see them arranged, possibly in a new way. I can taste words. I can use words, words are power. The right word, the right result. A bad phrase gives me agitta. The word-processor has been a gift to me. I endlessly tune my sentences, moving, exchanging, eliminating words at the touch of a key.

I will die on the day that I read a book that shows me the truth of words. Then I could have said, “words killed me”. I long for words, they are power, they live. I am addicted to words. I endlessly search for that superb conjunction of seamless phrases that asymptotes the truth. I can not stop until I find it. T he holy addictive grail of paragraphic perfection. The scribbled sacrament of sanguine sequence.

 I eat dictionaries. They litter my house. Anthologies trip me as I climb into bed. Travelogues tumble from the night-stand. Novels scare me. My hunger and thirst for words embarrasses me. I loiter in bookstores. In meetings I remain quiet and silent because I will not say what I have to say until I find the right word. I spend too much money on journals, magazines. Foreign Affairs, The Economist, Granta, The Utney Reader, The Witness, Observer, and on and on, all fuel all nourishment, all causing their own unique literary digestive consequence. As fast as I consume words, more words are produced. I must have them all. My lust knows no bounds. Seated on the toilet, lacking a book, I will read the contents of a tube of toothpaste. My fix. My love. Come to me words, lift me up, carry me away, and kill me.

To play with words, to be their intimate, their familiar, as a witch’s cat. To run and chase words across a clean sheet of vellum. To catch them in their strange habits. How one word changes the reputation of another by being set close to it. To imagine the shame of a proud noun modified by a weak adjective.

 Let me be where the words are. Have them osmose through my skin, run in my blood, crash through cerebral membranes and dance wildly in my brain throwing their meaning around without a care for my sanity. Let them gather up my sleeping lonely imagination in their limitless energy and drop kick it through far distant goal posts of comprehension for three points in a rule-less game of internal literary rugby. Let them find my conscience, scared in a corner, and beat it up with unassailable logic. Let them find me in there, running from cell to cell spouting incomplete stanzas of bad poetry and complete the verse in a nanosecond. Let them tear up and down until I begin talking in sonnets. Finally have them metabolize, degraded, decomposed and excreted as slang from a secret literary aperture that only words know.

 Let me hunt words. I hunt the words that fear me and my unique grammatical shortcomings. Let me come across them shivering at the bottom of the Thesaurus page, hoping to avoid my predatory gaze and wishing me to use another synonym. Hah! I see you, unused, unloved and clumsy word. Let me gently pry you out of your narrow definition and make you glorious when I place you as the crown of my magical sentence.… don’t struggle. I see that hidden meaning in you that I desire, and so I claim you.

 Words, words, come to me, lift me up, carry me off to a lyrical grave”.

 Copyright © 2001 Robert M. Sterry


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