first words

a first song
a clapping game
on a father’s knee –
lindi-ann is no good
chop her up for fire wood
when she’s dead
we’ll bake her head
into ginger bread.-
words shape us
when our tongues
are still learning
to shape the world.

there were days in between
perhaps years, when nasturtium leaves
were tall shade on damp spring mornings
their parasols shining wordless
veining cathedral glass
against the blueness of sky
while our hands learned gesture
good bye –
learned here is the church
here is the steeple
open thumb doors
where are the people.

one potato two potato three potato four

when we moved from that place
from our suburban house across the road
from the school where my brother
went before me
where i used to listen for the bell
violet fingered high in the
branches of the mulberry tree singing
nameless ballads of me and now and leaf
between mouthfuls of mulberry
and muttered incantations to
branches out of reach

when we moved from
that yellow bagged purple jacarandered
house in the suburbs i tied
a burst blue balloon around the
smooth barked branch
of my friend the guava tree,
to remind me of the place
so that one day i might return
and see that blue balloon
and remember it was all true
the world that i had sung
was real.

i know

and there were years,
days, lives between
when words and poets
swallowed me jonah whole
only to be spat out again to
see the world anew
and i waited by that shore,
drew the sound the sea made
with my toes in the sand,
tried to build song birds
out of found bones and broken wings,
drank salt mist from cupped hands
and waited
hoping to meet that whale once more
and once more
and once more,

waiting is not living.
knee deep in the world
the words come to find us.
i know

but suppose, like now
when warmth of spring
has gathered grey cloud
after a mornings weeding and
tying taller by the hour tomatoes,
and the rain falls sudden and hard
and the heat and the smell of it
rises damp thirst quenched from the soil,
and these words, all the words
become a blue balloon
tied to a smooth bark branch
marking a place where
the world sang true.

For Joy Ann Jones at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: FIRST POEMS, DOOR TO THE WILDER EYE.


8 thoughts on “first words

  1. Some theorists of psychology say the early history of the tribe repeats in every childhood: our earliest memories merge with the aspirations and yearnings of 20 thousand to 200 thousand years ago. The incantatory power of speech we learned on someone’s knee repeating nonsense rhymes — how it sang a magical world into being — how that wild wood remains with us, a prehistory and its magic mysteries tied with a blue balloon to affirm we were there for it. What enveloped us reading the poets, what wild emulations we made (“I waited by that shore, / drew the sound the sea made / with my toes in the sand, / tried to build song birds / out of found bones and broken wings, / drank salt mist from cupped hands”), trying to get back in the whale. It is half-known/remembered and fully loved as the organic material for all later poetry. Well done Lindi!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Brendan. Lovely thought – childhood playing out the progression(?) of the tribe/species. Interesting too then how many of us are facing disconnection and isolation now as adults – when our development as a species has cast us seperate from the world. It.was an interesting prompt – looking back and back to where the words began. Although i neglected to list the many poets along the way.


  2. That nursery rhyme! I used to use it of a ginger-headed friend, and I had forgotten. Not very kind of me – but it is fascinating how these early rhymes and their associations stay with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So interesting how we retain some words without really remembering them. I had not thought about it for years until I read the prompt and was thinking about speech rhythms and early verses.

      Liked by 1 person

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