Wednesday, February 11, 2009



She runs a small symbol-rescue operation

funded by donations. She takes in such words as

Africa, eagle, blood, sunset, heart, peak, sword,

and desert. Sometimes readers and writers

drop off wounded symbols secretly at night.

Her voluntary staff scrapes off encrusted layers

of meaning. The words are then allowed to rest.

In group-sessions, they talk about the abuse

they've suffered over centuries of literature,

politics, journalism, law, religion, and parenting.

They converse about simpler, denotative times.

Eventually, carefully screened users of language

are allowed to adopt the words, to speak and write

them only as needed, to avoid the old corrupt

symbolic forced-labor. The words seem glad

to have a second chance at meaning. They know

they'll get covered with connotative barnacles,

muck, and fungi again. They know they'll get

asked to signify awfully once more. In the

meantime, the symbols have been recovered.

Africa, for example, may mean in ways both

multititudinous and rare, like air.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

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