On Finding the Right Words

Finding the right words is not always easy. This issue we look at the endeavour to do so from the perspectives of three teachers. First, in Flat Line(s): Death of An English Teacher’s Psyche, Mary Roberson Wiygul lays bare the sense of self-doubt, inadequacy and frustration felt by a narrator who, as one able to teach, believes she ought ergo be able to do, and aches with an impotent urge to create. We follow this with Alan Girling‘s A Learner of English as a Second Language Describes a Photograph, where a teacher struggling to paraphrase for his student finds words tellingly lacking, before finishing with Roy J. Adams’ linguistic pedant lamenting less fewers (he-he) in FewDeL

Meanwhile, over on this issue’s companion page On Magic, Illusions and Other Realities, former attorney and prolific poet Simon Perchik shines a light on his own creative process. The Last Word, though, goes to Gale Acuff‘s ten-year-old alter ego, who in the final instalment in his quartet of Sunday School poems faces head on the issue of mortality.

 

 

Flat Line(s): Death of An English Teacher’s Psyche

In infancy, I had no words – my baby brain virgin and void of vocabulary. But now I have no excuse for the blank spots. When I put pen to page, the words should tumble out – do cartwheels and handstands and backflips and ooze all over the floor. I should be able to smear them on the walls. Smell and taste and touch them. Vomit them on command. Isn’t that what English teachers do?   

ENGLISH teacher. English TEACHER.  We can’t teach others what we do not know ourselves. So if I can’t find the words, if I don’t possess –

the shrewd sophisticated proved unmitigated talent of stringingwordstogether,                       doesn’t that make me a fake? A charlatan? A quack?

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it must be –

An ENGLISH TEACHER is someone who should possess knowledge of the English language and be able to convey said knowledge to those under his or her tutelage.
I should possess the words to talk someone off the ledge.

But what if I don’t?

Flair for prose is not my possession, but I am still possessed by the obsession
to write, to tell, to spin, to weave,        
                               to twist to braid to sew to lace 
 words together in the         space       that can forever promise immortality
as long as the ink doesn’t fade or the computer doesn’t crash or the world doesn’t end.

But the words won’t come.
So in silence I lie, a verbal vegetable, 
as the deep ache spreads
grabs and twists and turns me 
inside myself 
I want to scream the stories
                           but
                                my 
                                     lines 
                                               fall flat.

 

 

A Learner of English as a Second Language Describes a Photograph

A fat man is watching vegetables.
Thus the student, in his second language, describes

what he sees in the photo, the photo of—
no, I can’t say here, not without a re-phrasing,
a first language second-hand re-framing,
such that his words could be made
a tad ridiculous, fail even. Well,
the man’s stomach is large;
that much is clear. But is he fat?
And he could, I suppose, be watching
something do something, ripen say,
or rot; he could be making sure something
doesn’t stray, do something untoward, escape
something. Okay, I know what the photo is
of, could tell you, but I really must hold
back, leave it to him, for without the thing
itself, the person, too, to allow
assent, reader, listener, no more
indeed can be said than this:
a fat man is watching vegetables.

 

 

FewDeL

We are the Fewer Defense League
To reek against the blitzkrieg
Of less on fewer’s our intrigue

They seize less weeds and grieve less trees 
They have less heroes and save less dollars
Oh the many, many horrors

Our breed is banal and feudal
Daily our numbers dwindle
We know our quest is futile

Beset by this scurrilous swindle
Stiff-paced like wonks we waddle
Steadfast on fleek for FewDeL

Though we have no sop to stop it
Our word’s wittily worth it
So we’ll droop before we’ll drop it

Fewer you’re our idol 
More mooned than any idyll 
By us feisty few of FewDeL

 

 


Visit the 2018 Vol. 1 issue of The Font for ‘Love in Any Language‘ by Mary Roberson Wiygul.

FewDeL by Roy J. Adams was first published in Feathertale Literary Humour Magazine.

The illustration ‘Look It Up’ was retrieved from Clipart Panda.