Zumwalt Poems Online

a single word

a single word

words, words, words
static over static
drilling deeply thru the dentine
scraping invasively against skull and skin

your line of supply is inexhaustible
arguments, propositions, explanations
predications, exclamations, excuses
all unecessary barking and bow-wowing
at hidden celestial objects

I am here
don’t chase me away
unless you want me
to be chased away

I am yours
don’t bombard
your own firmly secured posessions with
ammo best saved for those territories still unconquered

give me short compact sentences
phrases and single words
ideas as consumable as quarter pounders

don’t shove a hose down my throat
filling me with mashed escargot and foie gras

words, words, words
I can’t sustain a relationship with them
pelting me from every angle at every moment that
we’re together

take your finger off the trigger
I surrender
make me a prisoner
not a confirmed casualty

words, words, words
they all sound the same
they don’t mean anything
they just demean, meander
and make me end up thinking
that when all is said
I haven’t heard
a single word.

— Zumwalt (1990)


Comments on: "a single word" (15)

  1. Laurie Kolp said:

    There’s so much passion running through this piece. Great ending. Barking and bow-wowing… love that.


  2. Excellent poem. Great images and I love the last stanza!


  3. “drilling deeply thru the dentine” wonderful line! It has punch and rhythm. great job!


  4. a worthy wordy on every level!


    • Laurie, Poetry & Icecream, krystalarnelle,

      Thanks very much for the comments!

      willowdot21 — you comment is very poetic in its own right! Thanks!


  5. Excellent. I love this. I have put a link on my blog to yours.


  6. manicddaily said:

    I absolutely agree. Demean meander–describes so much modern “speak”. Great idea for poem.


  7. Take your finger off the trigger…… what a perfectly polite way of saying “Shut up please… enough already!” I don’t even want to imagine the muse that took you to this place, but I don’t have to imagine because I’ve been there myself! Great testament to the adage that “Silence can sometimes be golden!”


    • John,

      Thanks! You have spoiled me a bit, as I have gotten to expect you to usually dig a little deeper on your comments.

      For example: “A dental consonant is a consonant articulated with the tongue against the upper teeth, such as /t/, /d/, /n/, and /l/ in some languages.” Would add “th” to this list — this one phrase by Zumwalt fascinates me: “drilling deeply thru the dentine” — the d, th, n, t, l are all made with the tongue against the teeth (I think one can discount the “p” since the “l” follows and the “r” since it follows the “d” — “dentine” sort of brings focus to this since it is as close to a dental word as you can get, sound-wise and meaning-wise.

      For me this poem may have a basic “at face” meaning (everyone feels bombarded with words at some point) but it seems to represent something more — as in the story of Job, when someone’s faith is tested, or when one’s is gettng direction from God, Fate, some higher power and just not getting it. Imagine the scenario of that person that believes they are bieng presented with difficulties, but a some point overwhelmed and not able to take in the challenges as lessons anymore.

      However, the poem could be about something else — that’s the trick with some of these poems — different readers can have different intepretations. I love how “experts” vary in their intepretations of some of the Wallace Stevens poems.


      • Yes, I see that now with “shoving the hose down the throat” filling the subject with anything but short compact phrases and words, I can definitely feel the threshold being reached where he would come to say I’m not sure if I can listen to another word, nor that I have heard even one…… It’s amazing the different variations that readers take away from a poem, but I think that is where the beauty of poetry lies. Its author is escaping me at the moment, but one of my favorite quotes from many years ago is “There are no great poets without great audiences….” The reader is what brings emotion to poetry, his own life memories and passions intertwined with the words of the poet bringing them to full color. Which is why, like you, I tend to place quotation marks around the word “experts” too. Even the “experts” bring their own baggage to each poem they read, and so it leads me to believe that each reader is his own expert. But understanding the thoughts and emotions of the poet is important, and fascinating too, especially for poetry that might be open to different interpretations. There are so many great poets and writers that make me wish I could have been a fly on the wall of their lives to better understand their inspirations. Thanks for sharing that…….


        • johnallenricther,

          Thanks for the return visit. That’s a great quote you mention, so I looked it up and the actual quote is “To have great poets, there must be great audiences too” — guess who? Walt Whitman!!! That brings to mind the Zumwalt quote that I have on the About page — “what anyone makes of a poem is always much more relevant and meaningful than what any poem is made of. The real artist and creative force is the reader, not the poet.”


  8. LaReese Renee said:

    this is amazing! brought back a few memories for me. i love your choice descriptives. excellent write.


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