To: Direction Toward A Point

It’s July and I am contemplating forgiveness. I am contemplating anger and rage and all the things I never want to feel. I am contemplating the fact of suffering. What that means. I am wondering why it is that language makes so much more sense written down.

Words spoken are too illusive. Slip through the air. It’s so unfair. When I was a young girl I played dumb. I acted dumb. I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to be the girl sitting in front of the class with glasses and braces and headgear. That’s exactly who I was. I built up a shield around me. I used words to distinguish myself from others.

I gathered ammunition. Deep guttural vowels.

Have you ever said something so many times you think you’ve forgotten the meaning of what it is you’re trying to express? My mouth goes dry with it. I’ve heard it said to lean into it. Lean into the love. The arms waiting for you. You don’t have to be alone.


What if those arms are empty? Not fleshy, only bone? No blood. No soul. What do you do when the arms extended to you are gesturing to come closer yet in the same breath -whisper madly- you will never be allowed in. You will be a token.

You are my second place prize. Runner up for the rest of your life. Here, marry me. Take this ring. I love you, goes the whisperer. Be my wife. What if it’s all an act? A vestige of what should be. How we should be in the world. Not of. Not a part of. How do we distinguish the true from the false?

Is there a test? Can we break out a dictionary and turn to page 328? Is there a cheat sheet somewhere I could borrow? How do we risk? How do we fall in love? Language should never be a trophy wife.

“I gathered ammunition. Deep guttural vowels.”

Take language. Take direction. Take the word love. It rolls from the tongue. The ‘o’ ‘v’ ‘e’ of it. You have to feel your tongue when you say it. There’s no escaping the body. Whitman knew this. Rilke knew this. Sappho knew this. They spoke about the body, the spirit manifest, a physicality of being. All of it. Sensual. Sense. Of the senses.

Poetry is the embodiment of spirit in words. Of rage. Of passion. Of love?something
pure. Something beyond the physical. Beyond the stain of ego. Poetry is a collection of words in situ. In the place. Context is everything. We glean meaning through placement. We look for signals. For rhythm. Flow.

It is Rodin, whittling away. His students slaving away at his vision. The women who did his work. Who understood his vision. No one can cast a poem for a poet. It is the loneliest thing. It is a sort of music that carves out the body that becomes.

Contemplate forgiveness. Contemplate all that has meaning. Poetry. Language. It is so hard to get it right. To say precisely what one means. To say. To show. To dream.

Jennifer Harris

Author of PINK! and resident Poetry Editor, Jennifer Harris, is an active literary organizer and served on the Board of Trustees for the Poetry Center of Chicago. She earned her MFA in Writing from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

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3 comments


  • Very thoughtful post!

    2, July 2010
  • Jennifer, I’m thoroughly enjoying your poetry columns. You have a beautiful way with words.

    3, July 2010
  • jennifer

    thanks so much!! i love all the feedback. j

    6, July 2010

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