Friday, July 25, 2008

Poem of the Week #29

Help for the Wordophobe

Like a late-onset allergy
to shellfish or milk,
fear of words can arrive
when you least expect it.

One day, you can articulate
your thoughts with the best of them,
the next day, you find yourself shy
facing words like phenomenon,

filthy, and bosom. Commitment,
malignant, and apologize
have been known to silence
the chatty. Fear of words

can strike any time or place
where their users gather:
at lecterns and pulpits, in libraries,
schoolyards and boudoirs.

The condition is characterized by
tremors when speaking or listening,
the slurring of words, or their avoidance
all together. Wordophobia, the poet’s death.

Possible cures include immersion
in kindhearted words like daisy, flipper,
scallion, beekeeper, locket, and anisette
or basking in musical pairs such as:

corn cob, feather weight
slip stream, and push pin.
In the early stages of therapy
it is best to avoid words

that are confusing in look or feel:
paradigm, bologna, aesthetic and colonel.
Rebuild the wordophobe’s confidence
using the old rhyming trick, practiced

by every courageous kindergartner:
cat sat, me bee, pig jig, song long, bun run.
Or simply spend a quiet afternoon
getting in sync with the meter

of the dictionary, letting the pages drop
through your fingers as you sit curled up
on the couch, a fire in the hearth, weighing
all the words in the world in your hands.

Lisa Vihos

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