Some Words On Words

The Imperfection Of Language


Sometimes when I write I feel like a caveman given a can of alphabet soup.

I can take the letters, throw them up on the wall, and occasionally form them into something approaching words, something similar to language. The paste passes between them, streaks of color, hints of images given form by the words they contain. But in the end they fall to the floor, meaningless.

I’ll pick out the vowels, lining them along the floor like pebbles, keeping the other letters separate. I’ll scoop the soup up into my bowl, putting it reverently to the side. And then I’ll place the words on the wall again.

But I’m taking my time. I dip my thumb into the bowl, weaving a pattern on the wall, red as blood. I draw the sun and the moon, weaving clouds between them. I sketch the land in crimson monochrome, fingerprints as bushes, bears, and brush.

I take the letters and start placing them between the branches, trying to show the sunset. Descriptions of deer, fire, hearth, and home fill the wall. I try for a sonnet this time, synonyms flowing in metered rhyme, trying to capture that instant when you catch the sun kissing a distant shore.

Sitting back, I sigh.

The letters fall to the floor as the blood deepens to an ochre stain. Even when I take my time, I’m still just a caveman with his precious can.

Words are imperfect. They’re cultural metaphors we all vaguely define. I don’t want to use words. I want to paint my soul into your eyes, so that when I say sunrise you see what I see, and feel the dawn fill your lungs as you step outside.

I want to give you my heart, so that you can feel my pulse during a thunderstorm, so you can feel it swell when I can make someone smile. What good are these eyes to show another moonlight, when they rely on a pen to show the stars.

The bowl still has some paste left in it, so I gather the letters and carefully lay them out again. Lines become heartbeats as sentences string into seasons, sonnets and song.

When I write, I’m just a caveman with a can of soup. But these stains hint at meaning—words a pale reflection of the soul beneath. So I write the outline, and trust your soul finds meaning when my words inevitably fail.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Jason L Bauman’s story.