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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/19/21

Foundering flounder (a poem)

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Roughly twenty years ago
I encountered the word "founder".
I was godsmacked. What?
Isn't it flounder? Or is that
The bottom fish with the flat face
That we can't eat anymore?

I was floundering. . . Or was I foundering?
Feeling a little queasy.
I was experiencing a sinking feeling.
I had always, up to that moment
Been very confident about
Using the word flounder as a verb.

But now I cast my net
And instead of flounder
I came up with founder.
What happened to the 'l'?
What happened to my confidence?
What was I to think?

How could I trust myself with words?
They seem like old friends until
They turn on you with a snide,
"Did I ever really know you?"
Were we ever really
Even friends?

Sure, one means "sink"
And one means "struggle",
I know I know, (I know now!)
But surely one can founder
And flounder
And be doing the same thing.

No! (The answer came down.)

Godsmacked by my native language!
How many times had I misused flounder?
I felt like that sad bottom fish
Weighted down, flattened by
A sea of language
I looked up with my sad flat face

At my surface self fishing in the sun
And then it was if a great cloud passed over
And I was alone at the bottom
In that deep sea-dreamtime
I thought of all the times
That I could have saved myself

From the spell of the Webster Collegiate Dictionary.
Which I studied like an Irish-Celtic monk
In a monastery in the wee hours
Staring at the Latin
Of the Roman Catholic Bible
Until the words caught fire

And burned the Book of Kells into his brain.
Was I poet or magician?
I wasn't sure
As I let myself be hypnotized
By the pseudo-mysticism of the language.
I only knew I had a calling.

Little did I know
That I was being hooked
And reeled in
By a language that has a history
Of filleting imagination,
A language of disconnected words.

I could have saved myself!
I could have learned a Romance language.
Oh Spanish! We could have been
So good together. Imagine
Reading Neruda and Lorca untranslated!

When Lorca wrote:
Con trajes color naranja
I would have known that he was saying,
"With jackets the color of oranges"
What a beautiful world we could have made?
Con trajes color naranja!

Instead of casting my lot
With a language that
Will always elude me,
That seems to enjoy
Feeding my illusions
And then tripping me up royally!

A language that will never make total sense.
Yes, one day, twenty years ago
I stopped walking on water
I went straight down
I foundered.
I sank like a stone.

But I didn't stop writing, thank god,
Even though people must have noticed
There was a change in me.
Maybe it's for the better.
Maybe I was just destined not to don
That jacket that evokes oranges.

(Article changed on Nov 20, 2021 at 9:13 AM EST)

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Gary Lindorff Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Gary Lindorff is a poet, writer, blogger and author of several nonfiction books, a collection of poetry, "Children to the Mountain" and a memoir, "Finding Myself in Time: Facing the Music" Over the last few years he has begun calling (more...)

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