On words

English: So many words to keep track of!.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The truth is –
I hate words.

Words – pffff – I feel contempt
for their impoverished attempt
to recall my inner life.

Six years old
teacher chastens me
for daydreaming.
She wants me
to continue my sums.

The sums are easy –
I wasn’t daydreaming.
I was contemplating
the nature of maths.

How do things multiply?
They clearly add
and subtract.
But does nature
actually multiply?
Is there intent?
Or is it just a
human construct?
My teacher had
moved on, and
I had no opportunity/
ability to correct her.

I decided words
were futile –
that I would
become mute.
My mother,
coaxed my
derision out.

So, I do not have
a love of words.
They’re mere chimera,
a beguiling illusion.

But, occasionally,
someone will comment
and I feel understood – known.
I may never have met them,
yet, there’s a connection.
And in those moments,
I dislike words a little less,
I may even like them,
and you would say:
I protest too much!


Written for dversepoets prompt “The Voice”, and dedicated to to fellow poet and encourager Mike McGuire of “FugitiveFragments”


45 thoughts on “On words

  1. I love the pfft. The whole time I read this I was thinking, please have an audio link, please have an audio link, and now my speakers aren’t working. Right now I have no words…..(well, I do, but they aren’t considered polite.)

  2. Fascinating! Your teacher missed the sign of the emerging philosopher in you! So glad you didn’t give up on words ultimately as you definitely have a way with them, and to look at maths from that perspective at that age (or any age really) is remarkable! 🙂

    • I was always suspicious of rote learning the multiplication tables – what if someone had made an error, and as a consequence I memorized it all wrong? I always wanted to work it out for myself, just to be on the safe side. And words, well they are, in the end, the best bridge we have between one another – no use giving up : )

  3. smiles…i think in some small way we all seek that recognition of who we are, knowing that someone gets us…math, i can speak that as well…and i think it informs words…the relationship of variables and how they interact…i like your questions around them and wish your teacher would have realized that…i wonder how many we stifle like that…and i am glad you found your words…

  4. This is so very good. I loved hearing you read it. There was a little bit of “snarky” in it but also a whole lot to make one think. Perception so affects what other hear. Math is definite (and I am so challenged in the world of numbers). I suppose I could write a poem “I hate numbers.” Maybe it’s that they are to forthright!

  5. You know….I am so heartened when someone reads and understands my words. It makes writing my words worth while. It is no small thing to be understood, even if it is only a little bit, by someone….even if the someone is a stranger. I appreciate the honesty in this write.

    • Thanks Mary, everyone needs to be heard from time to time, and it’s why I love this community: we hear, learn, craft, and develop at own pace, but together.

    • It’s kind of like denying your in love with a guy or girl. I’m aware that they are just symbols that can’t make up for the real experience, but I just have to play with them anyway.

    • Totally, I feel a poem (or any other writing) when written is only half complete. It takes a reader/responder to complete it, and you’ve completed it in your reading of irony – thank you.

  6. If A and B are any two events of a sample space such that P(A) ≠0 and P(B)≠0, then

    P(A∩B) = P(A) * P(B|A) = P(B) *P(A|B).

    Example: If P(A) = 1/5 P(B|A) = 1/3 then what is P(A∩B)?

    Solution: P(A∩B) = P(A) * P(B|A) = 1/5 * 1/3 = 1/15

    The Multiplication Therom on probability. The probability I am going to love your words is 100 percent. SHame on that teacher for not seeing your brilliance and yeah to your mother and any other encourager for you to find a middle ground with words. I always enjoy the recordings, You have both fascinating written voice and actual voice.

    • Ah Henry! You’ve totally got to me. I used to demand new sums to solve from my mother, such were my continual requests that she started me on algebra along time before I was given any at school – my face lit up when I saw your response! Probability is fascinating, especially because of the danger in being over confident that a random chance of say .01% will not occur, when there is still that slight possibility it just might. I hope future factors don’t change the poetry equation of your enjoyment of my work : )

    • Words and numbers are all symbols, and I wish children (and adults) didn’t experience such a fear of numbers as they do. I have to teach what are mainly Arts students statistics and I really have to go gently (I tell them it’s just like cooking and following a recipe – I’m a cheat though, as I have no confidence in the kitchen!).

  7. I’m sad that you don’t love words….perhaps you are being facetious 😉 As poets, we all have kinship to the craft…but I am with you on the math…had the darnedest time until some of it finally sunk in. Teachers need to know how they influence us in the smallest ways which turn out to be big deals later in life.

    • The “protest to much” was a nudge to the fact I was petulantly exaggerating (just like me as a child thinking I could be mute). Words and numbers are amazing in many ways, but my experience and yours can never be exactly the same no matter how close our expressions get to capturing something, so sometimes I’m sad that there’s always a gap. But a poetry community like dverse does seem to narrow it : )

  8. Hiya,
    Your lines sent me to finally work out the difference between:
    Chasten vs. chastise
    “Chastise means to punish or castigate. Chasten means to discipline or subdue. Chastisement is harsher, and chastening can be subtle and event gentle.”
    So, it could have been worse 🙂
    Amusing trip down your memory lane

    • I was particularly offended because she tapped my back/butt, and I hadn’t expected her to touch me. It wasn’t a smack (so not chastisement), but it alarmed me anyway, and so “chastens” seemed more appropriate.

  9. I used to daydream in school, but I was daydreaming not contemplating the nature of maths or any subject. I like the bit where you mention their inadequacy. I hear and relate to the frustration expressed in some of the lines here. I can also relate to wishing I was mute. I guess Words are best-fit representations of what one means to convey. I like your concluding lines, which despite all the ill history with ‘words’, you could still admit that wonderful feeling when someone gets what you mean. 🙂

  10. ha smiles…i think some words make it in a straight path to our soul..and so good to feel understood… ha..one day you have to find that teacher again and tell her…smiles

  11. Yeah, I sometimes resent the fact that words are only feeble symbols of thought, feeling, imagination. Nicely done, great use of humor!

  12. I understand too well Rowan. My youngest son was accused of not paying attention in school….a daydreamer sort of kid…but what he had going on in his head…well, if the teacher really had understood, they would not have accused. Very smart, my son, and you. Knowledge is built from the inside out.

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