for Si, Jo, Louise and James

What do we ask of the word?
That it be strong, and fine, and straight
like a flute,
that it may bear us
as light as music
across the silence?

What do we ask of the word?
That it be true? That it sing us to sleep sometimes,
and sometimes wake us?
That it will wait for us
like a nightingale in a fairytale
in an opening in the forest
and lead us
home when we were lost?

What do we ask of the word?
That it be real? That it remain for us
after all the silence of life is over
and a new, dark noise begins?
Or that it shape us to our own images
cool as a mirror, as mysterious, and as depthless?

What do we ask of the word?
That it may love us? That it may understand?
That it may remember us
the way a score remembers music
so when the new musicians play
we are revived again
warm, where the lips
hover over the silver?

What do we ask of the word?
That it do our bidding? That it move with us
like a Lord or a song?
That it give us power? That it carry us
the whole distance across a child’s smile
or an ocean, seamlessly and with no obstruction?
Is this what we ask of the word?

What does the word ask of us?
That we be like itself —
shy, impersonal, endless, and free.

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