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