That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why? Me with my arms outstretched, feet in first position. The chromosome half of us don’t have. Second to last in the alphabet: almost there. Coupled with an L, let’s make an adverb. A modest X, legs closed. Y or N? Yes, of course. Peas sign reversed. Mercedes Benz without the O.
Y, a Greek letter, joined the Latin alphabet after the Romans conquered Greece in the first century—a double agent: consonant and vowel. No one used adverbs before then, and no one was happy.
~ From Y, by Marjorie Celona, originally from the Indiana Review, republished in Best American Non-Required Reading 2008.
How can you not be inspired, like I was, reading this, to pose and consider everything remarkable about a letter? Maybe your first initial, or your last. I'm on the lookout every day for opportunities like this: to slip through an open doorway, an imaginative loophole, a slight tear in the fabric of all that right now insists. Because everything is happening at once, as it always is. Everything converging. Projects, deadlines, discoveries, presentations. It’s easy for me to just put my head down and run hard without stopping, without looking, without pausing for a handful of moments to practice doing what I love the most. And I found this to be the perfect thing to do today, mid week, now, on the seventeenth of November, with the world blue and brown and quiet with the promise of snow, amid everything else.
At the back door there are leaves that the wind’s tossed up in heaps, brown and crackling under our feet as we make a bonfire with friends, roast marshmallows and press them between crumbly graham crackers with chocolate; drink cappuccinos, and watch the children play. They take rakes with bamboo tines and heap the leaves until one or all of them are buried, laughter rising up with the sparks toward the night sky that is full of ink and diamonds; such a mess of grandeur, are the heavens above us.
The children turn on the porch lights; four boys in hats, leaves eddying up in the dark. Their shadows are eerie and huge across the grass, and then up in the sky, the waning gibbous moon, a pregnant C up there with the spilled milk of the universe, the faintest shadow of its darker side also there, barely illuminated: a C in reverse.
C: The letter that is at once the contents and the container, the balance of negative and positive space, the curve of palms, cupped, holding a bowl, and also the shape of the bowl. It is curiosity, and the top bit of a question mark in reverse. The final slight line in a pair of parenthesis, the pause of a comma, the arc of a story, a a smile turned on it’s side. It is the consonant that invokes creativity, the third letter of the alphabet, the symbol for chemical concentration, the speed of light in a vacuum, the abbreviation for carat, century, constant, cubic. It is the first note in C major, and the way my name begins.
Take 5 minutes. See what you can write about a letter. Or share a link an image or post and I’ll be sure to take a peak.