Imagining the origin of words

one usually pictures two tribesmen,

friends, standing around a fire.

The first one points to a stone

and sort of grunts. The second

furrows his australoid brow and

repeats the sound. From then on

when either needs a stone he

simply points and goes ongh.

But what need is there for words

between friends? If the two had

the pleasure of each’s company

enough to know 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

having to say anything at all?


Picture those same friends

enemies, the one having

supplanted the other in bloody

internecine combat, stands poised

over his foe, his hand upraised,

gripping the likes of that stone,

its wedges sharp, its peens blunt,

incanting its name victoriously,

seized with a prophet’s madness.

The last word becoming the first

words, adopted into the quiver

when it was discovered later how

the next person need only hear it

uttered and that was enough

that was the end of it.

R. Charboneau


Artwork: Sam Francis – Happy Stone Death (1960)

6 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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