The Watercourse Way

The Watercourse Way
Photo by Gamaliel Masters


by Steve Toth

I've heard it said
that each word has a life of its own
& that every time a word is spoken or read
that life is quickened
I don't know where I heard that
but it sounds like the kind of thing
words would say
If you can't believe what the words just said
go back & read them again
It's when the reader is paying close attention
& really trying hard to understand
that the words get more
of what they're looking for

How can I keep my story straight
when the words won't stop
rewriting their own definitions?
As a poet I would like to look good
& say intelligent things
but the words have other ideas
I may be done writing
but the words are just beginning
to express themselves
"These poets think they're so smart
but none of them has any idea
what we do with their poems
once they're out of the way
Let them go on to their next projects
These lines are much better
now that you've read them"

Words are like anti-matter canceling out
whatever is the matter with you
You can deny that you've read them
but the words know better
They know what you're ready for
& once you've read them
you're like a film exposed
You can't take it back
It's nothing personal
The words say these things
to everyone who reads them
Just keep telling yourself
it's only a poem

A word my age would be a baby
Some words have roots
that go back into earlier languages
When a dead language is dug up
humans team up
to find out what it says
The words don't have to think about it
They remember themselves
Language is its own point
My name is much older
than I'll ever live to be
If all there is for us
is the present moment
then all we humans have
is but a moment to live

Those who say
don't know
& those who know
don't say
Some people say that
but what do they know?
Who wants to know?
Or life itself?
See how easy it is to get
caught up in questions?
What are the last words you'd shout out
before a firing squad?
Which words do you truly know by heart?
Those are things all words dream of becoming
We can be dreaming
& not know we're asleep
Do you still think you're awake?
Do you understand me now?
Remember before you answer
It's only a poem

(c) May 17, 2004 by Steve Toth

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