On the Days I Have No Words, Someone Speaks for Me
When I first read Baby by Patricia MacLachlan, I did not care for it. To be fair, I was barely in my teens then, and I could neither fully understand nor appreciate the beauty of the story and how the tale was told. To the young me, it seemed boring, uneventful, and had a lot of underlying themes that made no sense at all.
I read it again a couple of years ago — older, having seen some parts of the world, having witnessed the reality of life and people. I read it one sitting and was surprised to discover how the story touched me. How the words drew out emotions. How the plot stirred up something deep within me.
Maybe that’s what it’s like when reading a book you haven’t read for a long time. Or going to a place you haven’t been to for a long time. Or revisiting a memory that you thought you had forgotten. You always find something that you didn’t see before.
A lot in Baby has something to do with words and poetry. Larkin, the main character, couldn’t understand why her teacher thought so highly of words. What about silence? What if you have nothing to say? What if what you feel is too much that words can’t express them?
Byrd, Larkin’s grandma, expresses it best in her quiet kind of wisdom:
“…there are some things for which there are no answer, no matter how beautiful the words may be.”
And that is true. There are days when my heart is so full, but words are not enough. In those days, silence speaks best. Then, there are days when I want to say something to express what is in my heart, but I cannot find the words to say it. I feel and I know what it is that I feel, but I cannot put the words together to describe what is in my heart, to express what I want to say.
Larkin, too, struggles, with being unable to express how she feels about the tragedy that happened to her family. It is as if her thoughts mirror mine. Both of us able to feel, but unable to say anything about it.
Then one day, her teacher reads a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, entitled Dirge without Music.
And suddenly, what Larkin has wanted to say — what I have wanted to say — is expressed:
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, —but the best is lost.
The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.