A Figure of Speech 

I remember the day that I first fell in love. It was the spring of 1977. I was 9 years old.  She was standing at the front of the room, chalk dust on her hands, hair pulled back in a neat ponytail. I was listening to her voice, sing-song, lilting. I was completely unaware that my world was about to explode.

Then it happened. She said the word, and as she said it, my ears perked up, my eyes widened, my heartbeat quickened. Something stirred deep down inside of me. It was a feeling I had never felt before, yet it was achingly familiar. I knew, I somehow knew, that my life would never be the same after that. After she said the word. The word that sparked my ever-living, ever-loving, undying devotion. That amazingly, wonderful, hypnotic word.

She said,  ‘Onomatopoeia’.

Just as the beautiful, blessed, wonderful word slipped from her lips, she gazed at me. She saw my reaction. Gasp! It was as if she could hear my heartbeat from the front of the room. Thump! Thump! She knew what she was doing to me. She looked right through me and kept on going.

‘Alliteration,’ she said. I could barely breathe.

‘Simile.’  My heart was beating like a drum.

‘Metaphor.’  I was a ticking time bomb.

She could see the excitement in my eyes, and so she continued to speak.

‘Imagery. Allusion. Hyperbole!’  Yes! Yes! A million times, yes!  Call me Alice because I am in Wonderland!

By the time she got to caesura- oh, I was spent.

The words! The glorious words! Words to describe other words!

These words expressed what I’d been feeling inside all along. My words had been paint on a palette, just waiting to be tapped and stroked, and now… Now I had the brushes! Now I had the tools that I needed to turn them into something bold and beautiful.

From that moment on, my relationship with words became conscious, active and deliberate. I began to hold words closer to my eyes, to magnify them, to see them more clearly.

I began to turn them over in my hands, to feel them, caress them, squeeze them. I began to tear them apart and put them back together.

I stuck them in my ears, letter by letter.

I swirled them around in my mouth. Chewed on them. I learned how each one felt and tasted. I noticed how every combination of words had a different flavor. How the textures varied on my tongue. Silky, smooth, sharp.

I learned that the exchange of words is always peppered with the unique spices of the participants.  Sweet, sour, bitter, savory. I swallowed them. Digested them. Felt them flowing through my veins.

I began to study the sounds and vibrations in my ears.The rhythm and the timbre of each word, separate and strung together. Staccato, legato, pianissimo, marcato. The consonance the dissonance, inflection, intonation. The clanging and the banging, the tintinnabulation.

I felt them as they flowed from my fingers to the pen and out onto the paper. The thin blue lines, and the thick black curls.

The feeling in my finger-pads as pencil scratched on paper, or my fingertips and fingernails tapping as they typed.

I felt them. Everywhere. Inside me and all around me.

And now my thumbs fly furiously across a small screen, trying to keep up with my brain.

Sometimes I can’t keep up.  And sometimes, I have no idea what you’re saying, because I’ve started a relationship with a word you said 5 minutes ago.

I’m busy turning a phrase in my fingers, touching it to the tip of my tongue, banging it against my eardrum.

I’m busy falling in love again, fanning the fire that was ignited years ago by a woman whose name I can’t remember.

She had me at ‘Onomatopoeia’.





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