The beginning of wisdom is in getting things
by their right name. —Chinese proverb
Ear. Nose. Eye.
We teach every child
to point and name.
The child goes to school,
learns “he” is the norm,
“she” the grammatical
variant. When the place
between her legs is left
unnamed, what lesson
does the child learn
but that what she discovers there
doesn’t quite exist
(except to be washed, face averted).
Eventually she’ll find
the language and labels
a linguistic burka, rooted
in pudere: be ashamed.
She’ll find the dysphemisms
of juvenile slang—
metaphors of confused fascination—
(Might as well call it Australia.)
Quarter of a million words
but not one with the raw
authority, the accurate—forgive me—
of the thing itself. So taboo
as to be nameless,
that place all human aching starts.
The final line is borrowed from Li-Young Lee’s “Self-Help for Fellow Refugees.”
“Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?”
It’s time. It’s almost too late.
Did you see the magnolia light its pink fires?
You could be your own, unknown self.
No one is keeping it from you.
The magnolia lights its pink fires
daffodils shed papery sheaths.
No one is keeping you from it—
your church of window, pen and morning.
Daffodils undress, shed papery sheaths—
gestures invisible to the eye.
In the church of window, pen and morning
what unfolds at frequencies we can’t see?
Gestures invisible to naked eye
the garden opens, an untranslatable book
written at a frequency we can’t see.
Not a psalm, exactly, but a segue.
The garden opens, an untranslatable book.
You can be your own unknown self—
not a psalm, but a segue.
Originally published in Pontoon 7: an anthology of Washington State Poets