It’s Only Words, and Words Are All I Have

I’ve been thinking about words lately. I should probably think about them more than I do, considering I’m a writer, but I guess my brain is too full of almost 58 years of living. There was a time in my life when words fascinated me. I was that delicate age when a girl is beginning to glimpse the woman she will become, and wondering what it all means. What it will all bring. I wrote these trembling feelings in pages of flowery poetry that didn’t rhyme, but flowed from my restless brain with sincere and deep emotion. Probably in purple ink.

This time lasted for a while, at least through high school. And during that time, I read something that I have never forgotten – just a phrase in a magazine article. The poetry of the phrase made me stop reading and repeat it softly to myself. And through the years, this phrase will come back to me and I’ll have to pause again to appreciate it.

It’s sort of silly, because the topic was not something that lends itself to beautiful language. The magazine was – I think – National Geographic, although it might also have been Life or Time. The article was about the changes in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. I must have been in high school, so the year was probably 1968 or 69. Wikipedia tells me that Hussein was not president until 1979, but it was 1968 when his party came to power, and I think he was vice-president.

It’s ironic today, that I found such poetry in an article about this. Iraq and Hussein are not comfortable topics to 21st century Americans. Sadly, the phrase I loved so much falls under a different microscope now. In order to appreciate its beauty, I have to isolate it from the story in which it appeared. It isn’t too much trouble to do that, but I find that in order to tell you the phrase, I have to paint the backdrop for you.

I’ll do that with broad strokes. You only need to know that sweeping changes were occurring in Iraq, as they began modernizing (read, “westernizing”) their culture. One example of this was the more widespread use of electricity. People were buying appliances like washing machines and dryers. The reporter wrote:

There is talk now in Baghdad, of static cling.

Can you see it? Can you hear it in your mind, and see the picture it evokes? It’s not earthshattering, I know. But appearing, as it did, in such a mundane article, on such a dry topic, that phrase almost danced on the page, bringing to life the concept  of modernization. It let me feel, for just a moment, the experience of learning to do laundry with a machine.

There is talk now in Baghdad, of static cling.

This is what words do for us. The best words show us life. They let us feel. The open us. It’s also true that good words, written beautifully, can be used for evil purposes, to tear us down or close our minds. Words, after all, are only words. We are responsible for how we use them. Something to keep in mind.

Do you have a favorite phrase? One that stays with you, that you take out once in a while, to admire?

 

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5 thoughts on “It’s Only Words, and Words Are All I Have”

  1. I was a teenager and buying “movie magazines” and remember an article about Kim Novak. I’m not sure if she wrote the poem or was quoting someone but was “If I knew I’d die tomorrow I’d ask my lover if he’d sorrow I’d ask him not to let me cry for silver seconds passing by. I’d walk the sea I’d walk the shore..these things I’d do these joys I’d borrow if I knew I’d die tomorrow.” Has stayed with me all these years and occasionally pops into my head.

  2. MIne is from a manuscript I beta read for EBear. ‘You are the product of a great love. Such things are messy and seldom end well’. It always makes me think of my parents–they still love each other desperately, and it’s there for all to see, but they’ve been divorced since I was 3. Sometimes, love just isn’t enough.

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