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.
Artwork: Sam Francis – Happy Stone Death (1960)