Monday, April 4, 2016

A Thousand Words for Tomorrow


They say that writers do best
When they write what they know
And that the difference between comedy and tragedy
Is just time
It is even said
(Though it is a misconception)
That Eskimos have an inordinate amount of words for snow
Because it is such a big part of their world
Yet we know this cannot be so universal
For though I have many names for pain
I have just as many for happiness
And only one of those two
Has been much more than a stranger to me

If that idea were true
Then human language would have formed around the drive for food
And we’d have a thousand more words for sex and snacks
But only a small handful for bad parking
Every language would have a hundred words for tears
And myriad words for beauty and longing
And only one or two words
For shoes and shampoo

If that idea were true
(And we know it isn’t)
Every great thing could be said
In a million ways
There would be a thousand words
To describe the hope of tomorrow
And we wouldn't have so many words
For shades of yellow
Or describing bad modern art

But it is not true
The words we speak
Are shaped by our need to qualify and quantify
Our vocabularies are not shaped
By the importance of the things they can describe
And I will show you why:
I have many words for sorrow
And many more for joy I hardly knew
But the only other word I know
For love
Is your name