When describing how language evolved
the story usually goes something like this:
two fellas are standing around and one
points to a stone and sort of grunts
the other furrows his australoid brow
and repeats the same. From then on
whenever one of them needs a stone
he points it out and goes ungh to his friend.
But what need do friends have for words?
If the two had the leisure of each’s company
enough to know a stone and utter poetry
what’s the point of words at all
when just the pointing would do?
What else is a friend but him who knows
my meaning without my speaking it?
If I may suggest an alternative:
picture those same fellas enemies
the one having supplanted the other
after bloody, internecine combat
stands poised over his foe, hand upraised
gripping the likes of that same stone
hewn with sharp wedges and rough peens,
not a smooth stone but bone-crushing rock
announcing the name of the thing itself
for speech was action before it was words
the last word becoming the first words
language the language of subjugation
bastard of warfare adopted into the quiver
when it was discovered the next fella
need only hear the name of the thing
and that was enough, that was the end of it.
Artwork: Sam Francis – Happy Stone Death (1960)