Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 20, August 2012)

Norma Cole
Word Magic

Bei Mir bist du shain...

for Sarah Wintz


complex, complexion

translate, translation

emote, emotion

(not about, but by being the thing itself, if it can be said that the thing is

affect, affection)

The world is mysterious. Poetry lets it be that.

Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be*

French=Yiddish? Huh?

When I was very young... family or friends of family sometimes — from time to time —

would say a word or two in “the other language.” That was called Yiddish. So when I

heard this song* on the radio, in the other language, I thought it was Yiddish.

The notion of French, that there was a different language called French came later, but

not much. Probably in nursery school (transitional kindergarten — TK — was called

nursery school in those days) singing "Frère Jacques").

The future’s not ours to see…*

words occur at the same time or in sequence but if indeed you happen to know more than one language, there's no division between. One learns to separate them, call them language X, language Y. In any case, they are all together in the brain. For instance, just after having my stroke, when I was learning how to speak again, I couldn't call up the word "pelican" but could say Alcatraz, like the island. I began to laugh, it seemed droll that I could image the bird, the island and the name, the word, and yet it was going to be the "wrong" word. The neuropsychologist who was testing me, quite taken aback with my laughter, barked, "stop laughing. This is not a joke." I thought it was and she was. Later on, I could say the word assiette more readily than plate when I was trying to take one from the shelf. Could say gesundheit when I had trouble thinking of bless you. So the image or idea is "there"—in mind—and the words "for" it are in the brain, not together but not far apart.

Slipperiness, fluidity.

The existence of words and how are they associated?

Imitation, mimesis—translation?

Ah, the new philology, variance.