Hometown Talk

No one can say how our town picked up our vocabulary. Certainly we have spoken it for as long as people have lived here. It presses lightly against the teeth, slips free of our eager tongues, our babies can babble and we know what they mean. But there is a slurring thickness in the wake of our truths and lies. A hundred thousand words, each with a different meaning about shoes. This opens worlds no one wanted opened. That old game of Telephone, the same sentence whispered from one ear to the next, an altered reality with each giggled breath. Now many are confused or wounded by this reckless lexicon, and real tragedies happen: a train wreck, the fall of a person from a window, someone gasping for breath in the wrong hospital. We have attempted to translate, to organize, to, in general, diagram our sentences.  But this language of ours has found its own purpose: to slowly crowd us out, leaving only the dangerous buildings, the impossible traffic signs. We hoped once the elders had died, the ones who spent entire days of their lives formulating how to say even the most trivial banalities, we would slowly forget. But no one forgets anything. A storage shed, stacked with a few half-completed volumes of our Community Dictionary: massive, doomed, the depressing smell of old paper. Was there ever going to be a way to compile and explain all of this, to agree on how to say what needs to be said and when? And our mouths run on without ceasing.


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