CARING FOR WORDS WITH JENNY RICHESON, SLP
I hope you enjoyed the more technical exploration of word-language-reading issues that I discussed with Jenny Richeson. Here, we bow to the loveliness of words and their representational meaning. Words identify. They are local or regional. Words are universal; they are personal. Words name realities and carry the presence of these realities. May you enjoy Jenny's poetry as you meditate further on these paradoxical themes.
Speech Pathologist Defends Southern Accent
Ah pledge allegiance. First, there’s a profession to defend. Rule-governed system in all dialects– phonological, grammatical features. Cultural, linguistic competence enables effective work.To the flaeg. The professional recognizes differences don’t imply deficiencies. My people to support: Loretta Lynn, Wynona Judd, Johnny Depp. Bluegrass State--known for bourbon, mint julep, horse farms, coal mines. Uv th’ Ynited Staetesuv ‘Merica. Diphthongs, beautiful gliding vowels. One syllable word stretching into two: pet becomes pay-it. First syllable stress instead of second: guiTAR to GUI-tar, then HO-tel, not hoTEL. O Lovely parlance, slower, with a lilt. Aind to the Ripublic. Defend us spirits of Faulkner, O’Connor, Welty. If God wants anything it must be fruit. But we are wild grapes in an arid landscape, living on Planet of the Lizard Brain. Fer which it staends. Someone from everywhere has embarrassed their mom, sounded stupid, been guilty of atrocities. One Naishun. Southern accent is arbitrary nuance, not objective evidence as sign of intelligence. Under Gahd. Dear micro-sensitive souls offended by the drawl, words like ya’ll, gonna, fixin to: Even Plato and Aristotle recognized that all opinions are not created equal. With Libertie aend Justice Fer Ah.
To the One-Legged Man
At the tail waters of Rough River Dam I sat behind you on smooth rock as you fished. Sound of rushing water; there’s no reason to speak. Crutches tucked beneath your arms, rod in hand, cigarette hanging from your mouth. Thinking all I have – health, job, family, friends. Confused by what I want – marriage, children--an arrival. Your movements--casting and reeling in, subtle shifting on crutches, steady persistence in shirtless stance. Happy, every fish caught. You probably want your leg back, or maybe wish you had it to begin with. I’d like to be friends with people missing something. Who know, incompletion in this earthly city. I saw my lack, saw you, and reframed questions to soothe an ache. As you fished with a stringed pole and single hook. It’s not an ironhearted game, but maybe hidden for, not from. Fish hidden in tail waters for the one legged man.
Jenny Richeson is a speech-language pathologist in private practice in Kentucky.