There Was The Word

Specific first words escape me but I recognized the power of certain words in my early teens. Swear words – fuck, cock, tits and cunt; as well as the insulting words: fairy, gearbox, tramp, fruit. I can recall my sense of pride at being able to say these swear words with my friends for the first time but also knew the fear of having my folks, or any adults, know I knew or even said these words. I knew automatically that I couldn’t use them at home or even make oblique reference to the knowledge they intimated: sex. I knew the words long before I knew the actions.


NOW! style on ice

The insulting label words told me who I was and how people felt about people like me. This was a shame I knew was deeper than swearing, one that I had to hide yet one my peers recognized even if I wasn’t willing to admit to it.


 composition in red yellow blue

One memory from high-school: I had watched a pop group on Ed Sullivan and talked my mom to making me a shirt similar to one the drummer had worn. Solid color with a patterned fabric on the cuffs and collar. Our TV was black and white so the colors we ended up with were solid blue with a red, yellow & blue paisley for the trim. I was so pleased with that shirt and wore it school as soon as it was ready. It got a few glances during the first two periods and by then I had sort of become used to it. I was changing rooms between periods when some guys began to mock me with those powerful labels: ‘You fruit’ ‘Only a fairy would wear something like’ that and so on. My inner physical reaction was fear, of not wanting others to hear these guys mocking me. My outer reaction was to be indifferent, to just get to my next class. I continued to wear the shirt occasionally, as often as I wore any other shirt, but that first wearing had completed the job of labelling me. Not that I cared about fitting in but those labels pushed me further into acceptance of my basic differentness. It gave me something to think about as I withdrew deeper into my own world. Those names pushed me to write, to paint, to express things in a less public way that I couldn’t communicate to anyone.


 trippy obscured by trees

Another word that I caught was ‘psychedelic.’ It represented a life of color, music, experience, clothing that was worlds away from where I was trapped. The image of that trippy world kept me brave through years of taunts. I see now the power of those words to bully, to impress, to hide and know they don’t have that power in my life today. As a writer they taught me to the secret power of language, showed me that how you say something will change the content of what you say, that the same things can be said in ways that are comforting or confronting or insulting or so on till you have a whole book. When I look back at these memories it’s a miracle I survived as intact as I am. I also know there were no words that could have spared me that past but how it speaks to me and how I speak of it today frees me and sometimes frees others too.


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Nuncle John

‘by the quivering tits

of the unfucked mother of je-sus’

I’ll never forget Nuncle John

he was a friend of my Dad’s

not an uncle

so we called him Nuncle

but no nun he

he would remind us kids

‘not by the quivering

all-smooth nut-sack

of the unsucked dick of K-rist’

I could never tell if people

were more shocked

than amused by Nuncle John

when he’d launch into a stream of cursing

he would often be muttering

‘fucking fairy’

‘useless bitch’

‘dumb cunt’

‘call that driving you fart fucker’

when he drove

glaring at other drivers

‘you using that stick shift on your pussy lady’

my mother would leave the room

the house

if he was coming over

his wife Mildred

would look simpering and apologetic

when Nuncle John

got caught up in a tirade

usually about ‘the stunned cunt Leafs’

or some ‘asshole licking mayor’

he swore without thought

it rolled off his tongue

as easily as good morning

ask him how he was doing

he’d reply ‘better than a hand job’

not that I knew, as a kid,

what half the stuff meant

but it lead me on my own voyage of discovery

‘there’s no such thing

as useless cock sucker’

he once said

‘if you’re horny enough’

I did figure out

the mother of christ

and the virgin birth

the immaculate conception

that complex vulgar blasphemy

it was a useless bit of knowledge

but his lesson on the use of cocksuckers

has proved it self to be very true

so even if he was ‘a pussy munching

unwiped asshole of a jerk off’

he did lead me to

more than few colorful turns of phrase

One thought on “There Was The Word

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