"How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds."
"It’s okay to lock yourself in the medicine cabinet, to drink all the wine, to do what it takes to stay, without staying. It’s okay to hate God today, to change his name to yours, to want to ruin all that ruined you. It’s okay to feel like only a photograph of yourself, to need a stranger to pull your hair and pin you down. It’s okay to want your mother as you lie alone in bed. It’s okay to break, to fuck, to flame, to church, to crush, to knife, to rock, and rock, and rock, and rock, and rock, and rock. It’s okay to wave goodbye to yourself in the mirror. To write, ‘I don’t want anything.’ It’s okay to despise what you have inherited, to feel dead in a city of pulses."
Rachel McKibbens, “Letter From My Heart to My Brain”
"I don’t know how many things there are in this world that have no name. The soft inner side of the elbow, webbed skin between the fingers, a day that wanders out beyond the tidal limits and no longer knows how to summon the moon it has lost, my firstborn who gazes about himself when the TV dies and there is a strange absence in his world. I was looking for a great encyclopaedia, the secret dictionary of all the missing words. I wanted to consult its index and find out what I could have become. The sound the clock makes when it is disconnected and taken down from the wall but can’t lose the habit of trying to jerk itself forward. The look of old socks drying on a rack in the kitchen all through a winter night, hanging starched and sad opposite the wedding photographs. A word for your face when you know you can’t love but would almost like to try. The blurred point of merger between fresh storm damage to a house and the deep fissures that have always been there. Walking down the corridor to the front door with inexplicable elation in my chest as if everything was about to start, as if my love had just arrived, escaped from a burning world, and at the same time clenched in my taut wrists, my hands, the thin bones of my arms, the certainty that everything has long been over."
Peter Boyle, “Missing Words”, in What the painter saw in our faces
"Some things are hard to write about. After something happens to you, you go write it down, and either you over dramatize it or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones. At any rate, you never write it quite the way you want it to."
"There’s no substitute for someone who really gets you, accepts you for who you are, and makes you laugh."
"Love is excruciating, especially when you can feel it slipping through your fingers and there is nothing you can do about it."
Julie Hockley, Crow’s Row
"I believe that we are arks of the covenant and our true nature is not rage or deceit or terror or logic or craft or even sorrow. It is longing."
Cormac McCarthy, “Whales and Men”
"One of my philosophy professors lectured wildly about love once, yelling: “When you’re in love with someone, that person is the lighthouse of your universe.” (I scrawled it inside Science and Poetry in pencil—lighthouse of your universe—as if I would ever forget that phrase.) He was a delightful caricature of his position. I could swear he literally tore his hair out while howling at us. He went on, “Nothing means as much without that person.” One of the men in the class repeated, incredulous, half-laughing “so you’re saying you can’t enjoy, like, a vacation, without someone if you’re really in love with them?” “Of course not.” the professor replied. “Not completely. You recognize beauty, but beauty means less if they don’t witness it with you. Beauty is less. You see something sublime and your first thought is that they should be there with you. It’s not as good without them. They illuminate. They make everything more."