Each section of Figments consists of variations on a theme. The first section, “Of Language,” uses tropes of languages and letters.
I was interested at the time in how language evolved. How did uttered sound first acquire meaning? How did it evolve to signify something other than the music that it made, and how was it refined and abstracted to represent complex ideas and strings of thought? Playing with the tropes of “ages” of human civilization, I had in mind that words first arose from a direct association of sound with action (in this case a violent action).
Imagining the origin of words
one 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?
Who 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 overtaken the other,
cast him on his back in stunning
internecine war, leans poised over,
a hand upraised, with that same stone,
its sharp wedges, its blunt peens,
incanting its name victoriously,
seized by a prophet’s madness.
The last word becoming the first
adopted into the quiver
when it was discovered later
how the next person need only
hear it uttered and that was it
that was the end of it.