When I was a junior in high school one of my classes was a creative writing class focused exclusively on poetry. I had no patience for poetry, I'm afraid to say. After all, I believed that words are best when they are in the good company of many other words. But after a semester (and then two more) of living in poetry, I learned to cherish good words. I'd like to start sharing some of them with you on this blog.
Word for Today: Silk
Definition: This one seems deceptively simple, friends. After all, silk is a thing, not an adjective. The dictionary proclaims that it is a fine material made from spinning together strands from silkworm larvae, from the cocoons they spin and spin in their small bodies.
Silk, noun. The look of the babbling River Cary as it flows behind the house, the home of England.
I am six or perhaps seven, my small feet tromping through the mud of sheep fields, my skirt (which I staunchly refuse to trade for more practical little-girl blue jeans) bounces around my knobby knees. I have short blond hair in this story - and a smile that bursts from my face with all the energy of being in my favorite country. This is the year where I proclaim that I am half English and half Indian-ian (my mother hails from Hammond), and English air tastes fresh and clear.
Dad plays pooh-sticks with me. We drop broken bits of tree branches on one side of the little lane bridge, and we mock race to the other side. Laughing, we find my branch caught between two rocks on the other side while Dad's moves right along with the current. The water is so smooth and clear I can screech with all my energy: Look Dad! I can see moss on the rocks! The water is silk smooth and the memory is, too.
Silk, noun. The feeling of butter that's partly melted on your best friend's loaf of homemade bread, the bread that you watched her knead up to her elbows while you peeled peaches for a pie, in heat of summer. It's the taste of that butter running over your tongue and down the back of your throat, mingled with the taste of the warmth of the oven. My best friend, she cuts each piece in half so that we're always sharing it, breaking the bread together and letting the crumbs scatter on the smooth wooden counter. We slide the pie into the oven and wait for it to bake while we bask in each other's words and silence. Silk is this summer moment.
Silk, noun. Playing dress up in Mom's bridesmaid dresses when I was 13. Her teal silk gown was my special favorite, imagining myself the princess of The Princess Diaries and the heroine of some classic English novel, where I would always be dressed in silk and lace and have fans and feathers and silly flirtations. I would slip into the dress in the attic and hoist the too-long skirt up so that I could walk around in what I thought was an elegant way, trying out these words graceful and poised and elegant. I wanted to be grown up - silk is a grown up's word.
Silk, noun. A word to make poems with, to link to the other good "s" words like soft, hushed, smooth.
It's a word to describe unexpected things, a word to use because it is three-dimensional and you can feel it between your fingers and toes, run it along your cheek. You can taste and see it. The word becomes real and helps make the moment real. And isn't that, really, what we need words to help us do? We need them to help make reality real for us, anchor it in letters and sounds and onto the paper so that we remember, so that we bring those moments into our present. Silk is one of those words that is both noun, and adjective, and makes those moments of pooh-sticks and bread baking and dress up real. Silk is a word about real.