The Words

                                                                  For Goyo

Permission had to be
To utter
Each word

Public speeches
Had to be authorized
Even bedroom whispers

Words with magical powers
Like "the"
Like "papaya"
Like "everybody"
Like "because"
Like "breath"
Required special permission

Since the bureaucracy was slow
Parents had to apply well in advance
For their baby's first word

People would often have to wait in silence for years
Words sitting
Forlorn and angry
On the tip of their tongue

Unauthorized speech
Was severely punished

Were subjected
To painful
Word extractions
In the public square

Some of the words so removed
Were painstakingly rehabilitated
Released back into the language
On parole

But others
The incorrigibles
Were hollowed out
Stripped of meaning
Reduced to a hum
A mumble or a moan
Or simply executed

A few
No one knows how many
Managed to escape
God knows how

The word was
They formed maroon communities
In the forests
Where they mounted their defenses
Regained their health
And reproduced

Some people claimed to hear
The rebels chattering or singing
In the forest
On clear
On dark
On quiet

People said
Or rather they
They dreamt
The redacted words
Would return and free them one day

Whole vocabularies
Would ride triumphantly into the cities
And loosen their

                                                               -- New York, June 2010

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