Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Take This Word

Take a word, a single word. Imagine it has been created by Michael Helsem, whose mind is a churning word-hoard. Take this word:


You have now finished reading the word. It didn't take you long. It is itself not long. Maybe you are moving on right now. You saw a word, you read it, you understood it at some level: certainly at the level of sound.

But what else?

You see--we will imagine--the word "crypt." You hear the creak from opening the door to that crypt. The sound is in the word; it is all of creaking: quiet, cracking, hard sounds of stone push over and across stone, sharpnesses.

This isn't just a poem about a crypt, though. You see that right?

Read the word out again. Read through it. You read it the first time in a glance. Your eye gulped it in without thinking. You didn't linger. You need to linger. Lingering is what makes the pwoermd. It's not the poet so much as the lingering. And you are the lingerer. At least you're supposed to be.

So linger:


Okay, so you made it through the whole word while paying closer attention. What did you see this time? 

Sure. The word has two syllables. That's a start. What else? Yes. It sounds just like another word: cryptic. And it's almost spelled the same.

Right. The word is merely the word "cryptic," with its i replaced by a y. 

Not genius? Why do you say that? Don't you understand the meaning of "cryptic"? Difficult to understand, bewildered, coded into secrecy. And the y enhances that.

How? Many ways.

Take how that y changes the visual feel of the word, and gives is some balance. Each y is the third letter in from one of the ends of the word. Two y's at each end; two c's at each end. Somewhere in those letter is the answer to the code.

So now we have the word "cryptic" made more cryptic. But what else has changed?

Yes, the word stands alone, but that's not enough right now. You didn't notice it? Remember that the sound of the word did not change when the y was slipped into the place of the i. But it didn't change when the second change was made:


An h is added to the end of the word. Two spelling changes are wrought upon this word, yet its pronunciation has not changed at all.

But the word has.

The h also balances the word: with it, each syllable of the word has four letters. But is that the only reason for the h? 

You're right. "No" is the correct answer, but maybe not an elucidating one. The h is crucial.

The h, totally silent here, give the word an echo of another word. "Triptych." A painting or other visual work arranged in three pieces, three leaves as it were. A kind of evenness, balancedness.

And, yes, the answer here throws us off. The h is the aporia. It is essential to make the word work, but it also undermines the meaning of the word--which was pushing us into a mysterious twoness, but which now has left us with a threeness.

The word this word reaches for cannot be made. The word vacillates between the binary and the trinary. 

It cannot stop flickering at us. Its meaning is never secure.

The word retains and extends its cryptic nature.

It is wholly itself and perfect, but being fractured between possible meanings and anything but perfect.


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