This is another piece from my old poetry journal. The assignment was to write about what words and language meant to us, what sort of influence they'd been in our lives.
I don't know if I can pinpoint precisely when language became so important to me . . . . I have snippets of memory which speak to learning experiences. I remember being in Kindergarten and waiting in the lunch line. My class was first, and I asked a fellow student, "where is everybody?" She began laughing at my pronunciation. You see, when I was small, I would pronounce the "body" part more like "buddy." I sounded very southern and uneducated--or at least, that's what they made me feel. Another one that used to cause problems was "breakfast." I guess my way of saying it used to be "BRACK-fist," and that was unacceptable to those around me . . . so, I changed it.
I think another early point of contact with langauge helped me understand the need for lush specificity. I remember being about 4 years old and sitting in the pew at Southgate Baptist Church. For most of the service, I was fairly tuned out; however, when it came time to visit with and welcome those fellow weary seekers around us, I perked right up. I marched my little butt straight down to the altar and--exactly as you see in cartoons-- yanked a "Hey, mister!" on Pastor Royal's ployester pantleg.
"Well, hello, Miss Amy," he smiled down at me.
"I want to sing," was my simple reply.
"Okay, then," he said with wonder, "we'll have to see what we can do about that."
I returned to the pew with my mother and waited on tenterhooks for him to call me forward, a precocious grin playing at the corners of my mouth. When the service ended--and still I sat--I was very angry, probably as angry as a little four-yer-old heart knows how to be. I marched right up to Pastor Royal in the receiving line, and I think I gave him a piece of my mind. I remember that he looked as though he were taken aback. My mother looked shocked, having known nothing about it to begin with. As he calmly tried to explain the need to plan ahead, I stewed in my juvenile juices. That was when I learned the need to be specific in my requests, and to ask for clarification when I don't fully understand something.
Another point of contact with words which helped me understand their gravity and importance came with music. I've always been musically inclined, and as I began to learn lyrics, my vocabulary and comprehension increased tremendously with each new song I learned. The Phantom of the Opera taught me about love and its many iterations and misadventures; Static-X taught me about anger and how not everything that sounds angry really is; Etta James and Ella Fizgerald defined yearning; The Cowboy Junkies helped me find a voice for my confusion and warned me of betrayal. Behind all of this music, the motivator was always the language, the words. Lyrics can often stand alone as poetry, but set to music, they can become transformative engines to encite change or keep the peace.
And, ultimately, I want to be a part of that . . . but I suppose my aspirations belong in another entry . . . .