'DON'T TELL ME WORDS DON'T MATTER' - Barack Obama
We have more words than we can remember. Dead languages that layer up into this, the sedimentary lexicon on our lips.
We brush it off daily. We slough it off on one another.
"Can I get a black coffee?" I ask.
My fingers tap on the counter with a nervous will of their own and the barista turns his back to start up the coffee machine. It fills the cafe with steam and roaring, while outside the sea seethes. I watch through window, almost glad of the pane of glass between its frustrations and mine.
When the coffee comes, I take it to an empty table and sit with my empty notebook open.. A while back, I wrote a novel that few people bought and fewer people read. Since then, pressure has held me at the wrist. The weight of words has flattened my hands so I could hardly hold a pen.
But not today.
With the barista watching me, I write hallowed words in biro ink. I get to the bottom of the first page and sign my name, knowing I have given all I can give. Then I get up, leaving behind the full coffee cup and the almost empty notebook. I go out and run alongside that seething sea, letting my feet find the nearest cliff top.
Swooning and gasping, I jump.
Swooning and gasping, I break the spine.
Laid out are the words I have been tracing for weeks. Through reviews and imitations, I have caught the tail ends of this conversation. Now, with the book in my hands, I have the whole. It is all I need to satiate my swooning love. The writer did not produce much I know, only a novel and a few scraps of verse. I savour each page, letting the hallowed words ring to me from another time.
This age has words in abundance. We pour them out through keypads and screens. It is funny to hold a life's work in one small book.
Between my hands lies typescript residue of a living, breathing being.
I touch the page. I feel where the matter lies.
I was late and had to perch on a ledge,
sharing a footstool with a Danish poet.
He'd read soon enough, leaving a brief
moment where only I had the point of view.
I scanned faces, guessed favourites,
folded into what I heard, earmarked
by a voice I might not know again,
and in that tiny room all of us were wed,
word-bound, for better, the worse
the legislators, with all our decrees
finally heard. So full was I with a strange
and new enthusiasm for these people
that I had to volunteer, cut between crammed-
together chairs, and all of them were there,
too there, and–I read.
With some applause
I shared again the prospect. The Danish
poet and I would compliment lines each
wrote on the way out.
So closed that space,
where it matters to say.
Henrietta Mosforth is a student in her third year at Somerville College. She studies English, enjoys writing and is always looking for something new to read.
Robert Jackson is a second-year English student at Corpus Christi College. He currently writes for Seven Voices, and will have work published in Notes Oxford. He also writes and edits for The Oxford Student.
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