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Figures of Speech


Under a tree across the grassy reach

Sat men and women signing each to each.


Their passionate hands maneuvered like wild birds,

Embellishing the air with figured speech

Whose meanings I could not put into words,


As if their flying fingers spoke in tongues.

Where breezes in a tree are never heard

And the songs of birds are silently unsung,


The language must be foreign as the land.

Perhaps, as painters hear the waves among

The grass with aural eyes, they understand


The frequencies of light and shade and stone

In idioms they've written out by hand,

Conversing with the world by picturephone.


Then, by degrees, across the silent lawn,

In tree trunk bass and gravel baritone

And the shook maraca of the sunlit frond,


I thought I saw the day begin to speak,

Though what it had to say I can't repeat.


Greg Williamson



From The Silent Partner, Story Line Press,

1994.  Reprinted by permission of the author
and Story Line Press, Ashland, Oregon.

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