Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Words

The world does not need words. It articulates itself 
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path 
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being. 
The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.

And one word transforms it into something less or other--
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands 
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow 
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.

Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot 
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica. 
To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper--
metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa 
carved as arrowheads. To name is to know and remember.

The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds, 
painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving 
each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it. 
The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always-- 
greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.

Credit


Copyright © 2001 by Dana Gioia. Reprinted from Interrogations at Noon with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Author


Dana Gioia

Born in Hawthorne, California, in 1950, Dana Gioia is the author of several poetry collections, including Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press, 2001), winner of the American Book Award.

Date Published: 2001-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/words