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.

R. Charboneau


Artwork: Sam Francis – Happy Stone Death (1960)

4 thoughts on “Stone Age

  1. It’s such a great poem, Robert. Words become so much more important in matters of life and death. I love this line, it’s your crown jewel: “for speech was action before it was words”. Priceless.

    Is it true your next poem is about Pygmalion?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was! But then I fell in love with my own words, and they turned into a real person!!! Unfortunately she ran off with someone else’s sonnet… C’est la vie.
      (And thank you for the kind words. That’s my favorite line, too!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t worry, she’ll start popping drunken limericks any day now and regret her decision. Meanwhile, you’ll be partying with your Odyssey. I like Odyssey, makes for a great lover’s name. Epic. It’s exotic, but gender flexible enough to accommodate all desires.

        Liked by 1 person

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