by Holly Lisle
All Rights Reserved

The perfect word lies
‘tween the seconds
Dug in, crouched down ‘twixt
tock and
tick
Sleek, round, and glossy,
Snarling at me from
Deep inside its darkened lair

It is right THERE
I see its red eyes glow,
Teeth flash
It snarls and hunkers,
Foams and spits
In onomatopoeic fits

I am so close
I taste its tang against my tongue

Nor will kind murmuring prise it loose
Vague cooing sounds nor wretched cussing,
Nor juicy fingers ‘neath its snout

It won’t come out

Its gaunt and threadbare brethren romp
Within my reach
I don’t want them
But, tock
The ticking of the clock chivvies me on
More words await
I must be gone

I grasp sad second by the nape
And toss it in, dissatisfied
Rebuild my edifice to fit this lesser beast
And move along

Seven… thousand… seconds later,
Give or take a tock or two,
My perfect word erupts to loll
and gambol, smirking, on the green
Where I could pluck it up with ease
And let it shine for all to see

Except it does not fit the plainer wall I built
Of lesser words

It strolls away,
Insouciant!
And waits to vex another day.

Writing seems to me like building a wall out of weasels and stoats, and goldfish and crickets, and lemurs. And other things. Lots and lots of other living, breathing, cantankerous beasts. Nothing gets along with anything else; some words will only work in some atmospheres; and, you think you have it right and then you go back and look over what you’ve done and nothing looks the way you thought it did when you put it there, leaving you to believe that every blessed word got up and moved around while you were otherwise occupied.

And there is always one word that lingers just… out… of reach.

If you write — if you have ever written anything — odds are you know this word, or one of its vile kin.

This poem in raw form woke me up this morning at 4:59 AM, (nasty little beast), when I had planned to sleep in until 6.

(June 8, 2004)

n_philosophy

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