Monday, February 25, 2013

Pretty Words by Elinor Wylie

Pretty Words
By Elinor Wylie (1885 - 1929)

Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:
I love smooth words, like gold-enamelled fish
Which circle slowly with a silken swish,
And tender ones, like downy-feathered birds:
Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds,
Come to my hand, and playful if I wish,
Or purring softly at a silver dish,
Blue Persian kittens fed on cream and curds.

I love bright words, words up and singing early;
Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing;
Warm lazy words, white cattle under trees;
I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly,
Like midsummer moths, and honied words like bees,
Gilded and sticky, with a little sting


My own favorite pretty word is tabula rasa. 

(Tabula rasa, meaning blank slate in Latin, is the epistemological theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that their knowledge comes from experience and perception.)


"The day will happen whether or not you get up." ~John Ciardi


Kelly said...

My favorite word might not be so pretty, but I love to spell it aloud.


Snowbrush said...

Great poem, and the fish are pretty too.

erin said...

i wanted to respond with a poem with tight language - eaven boland is a master (although not quite what i was looking for inside my forgetful mind).

what we lost

It is a winter afternoon.
The hills are frozen. Light is failing.
The distance is a crystal earshot.
A women is mending linen in her kitchen.

She is a countrywoman.
Behind her cupboard doors she hangs sprigged,
stove-dried lavender in muslin.
Her letters and mementos and memories

are packeted in satin at the back with
gaberdine and worsted and
the cambric she has made into bodices;
the good tobacco silk for Sunday Mass.

She is sewing in the kitchen.
The sugar-feel of flax is in her hands.
Dusk. And the candles brought in then.
One by one. And the quiet sweat of wax.

There is a child by her side.
The tea is poured, the stitching put down.
The child grows still, sensing something of importance.
The woman settles and begins her story.

Believe it, what we lost is here in this room
on this veiled evening.
The woman finishes. The story ends.
The child, who is my mother, gets up, moves away.

In the winter air, unheard, unshared,
the moment happens, hangs fire, leads nowhere.
The light will fail and the room darken,
the child fall asleep and the story be forgotten.

The fields are dark already.
The frail connections have been made and are broken.
The dumb-show of legend has become language,
is becoming silence and who will know that once

words were possibilities and disappointments,
were scented closets filled with love letters
and memories and lavender hemmed into muslin,
stored in sachets, aired in bed linen;

and traveled silks and the tones of cotton
tautened into bodices, subtly shaped by breathing;
were the rooms of childhood with their griefless peace,
their hands and whispers, their candles weeping brightly?

my favorite word? any rightful one but i'm afraid i don't know many. i rely on the poets. (i laugh at vacuum which i can never remember how to spell and truly appreciate tabula rasa.


Marion said...

Kelly, vacuum is a good word to type, too. Also, babies find vacuuming soothing...well, some babies do. xo

Snow, thank you. I appreciate you, my Oregon by way of Mississippi friend. xo

Erin, I can't recall if it was you who turned me on to Eavan Boland or vicey-versey. :-) Not that it matters. She's a Hemingway writer, for sure...concise, tight, and just the right words. Thank YOU for the awesome words you gifted me here. Perfect. Love & Hugs. xo

Phoenix said...

My favorite word is tattooed on my back in all it's trampy glory - entheos. God within.

Tabula rasa is a beautiful concept. I love the idea and the hope behind it. We all want to think that we start innocent into this world, so that it's easier to hope that we can get back to that place one day.

Beautiful poem you selected, Marion, as always. I hope all is well with you.

Wine and Words said...

Yes, well...Tabula rasa seems like a good tat, although once inked...a blank slate my skin would no longer be. I know nothing about poetry... the writing of, or the reading of. I only know what I like...and it is nothing I can manage on my own lately. So reading it is, and you have given me so much fuel for that fire :)

Thank you friend!