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Sport 22: Autumn 1999

Fiona Farrell — The Inhabited Initial

page 5

Fiona Farrell

The Inhabited Initial

A aleph: an ox

She draws the others after
dees worruf gnol eht nwod
dropped in dark trenches.
reh fo enil eht wollof eW
going to the fence and
.toof yvaeh yb toof kcab

B beth: a house
This bivvy shelters all
our gods and treasures.
We huddle reading the
calligraphy of fitful
flame, in our tumbled
dreaming the murmur of
mothers like blood round
the belly and beyond the
open window the grunt and
howl of things we cannot

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C gimel: a camel
It sways toward us sewn in a
secret pocket with strange
seeds and stones. A cup with
a foreign cut carried across
dry land.

D daleth: a door
You open it and everything
pours in: new stuff, old
stuff, some for the dump.
You shut it fast but there's
always some small fist
hammering at the other side.

E he: lo!
Behold! The Word is striding
high in new shoes! The mark
of its heel is stone. The mark
of its toe is feather and the
skin of unborn lambs. The Word
spans the air-bridge with
curlicue and flourish. Make
straight the way! Make room!
Make a cake!

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F vau: a hook
Meaning hangs like a silk dress,
a heavy coat. There. Behind the
door waiting the structure of
a breathing body to plump and

G gimel: a camel
Here it comes again from
another direction, dust
fluff at each footfall
and on to dots and

H heth: an enclosure
Teeth drawn up a white
pallisade and through
the palings wag woof
and oink moo click
suck burp cluck and
yap yap yap yap yap.

page 8

I yod: a hand
Finger or fist. Take that!
Take that! If you would
rule a people, first force
them to eat your words.

J yod: a hand
On the one hand, chaos.
On the other, order.
And down the middle,
the jagged blast of

K kap: the palm of the hand
And here's the bird-print of
the goddess her creatures owl
and hedgehog bloody as birth
and spiked with sticky jiggy-
jig. She examines the pattern
on a new leaf and says: look,
look. See how the heart cuts
across the other lines.

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L lamed: a goad
You gotta move. You gotta
figure it all out. You
gotta go with the babble
of brook and creek and
out into the main current
where the flow is thunder
driving us all to the edge
and over. Raus! Raus!

M mem: water
When a word is launched it
bobs about like a little
red boat under a proper sun
on the blue stripe of now.
Go, little boat. Go.

N nun: a snake
This letter wriggles through
dry leaves slipping from
skin to skin.

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O cayin: the eye
I see you. Yes, I see it all
through your round window. The
well, the bubble, the tear. No
pupil. Just your perfect bowl
holding nothing but white water.

P pe: the mouth
Her mouth a puckered kiss
breath popping like seed
from a dandelion to settle
on other hillsides, other
mouths soft and damp as
flowers with their roots
down deep.

Q qoph: a monkey
The tricky ones skip and mimic.
No wonder the bootmen are burning
books, clipping the square for
another winter. But on the fence
above their sweaty heads the
letters tease. Catch us, bootman!
Catch us if you can!

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R res: the head
You've got your head screwed
on backwards, looking over
your shoulder. You keep your
head though, under fire. You
growl. You bare your little
teeth. You say heads I win,
tails I win. You are strong
backwards or forwards.

S shin: teeth
The word bites leaving a
ragged edge and a tiny bubble
of blood. It goes off to sit
in its box, tasting memory.

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T taw: a sign
What signs are these? Crossed
sticks pointing every way. Grass
bent in the direction of travel.
A man whose arms are spread like
a cormorant's wings to dry in
the blast of faith. And down here,
he's 4 her.
In red and black
by the railway track
he sets the old refrain:
I Am
I Love
to the clickety-clack
of every passing train.

U vau: a hook
High five.
Up yours.
Come. Go.
Bless. Bash.
Some letters
hang on by
living hand
to mouth.

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V vau: a hook
Snagged in the mouth by a sharp
hook we were lifted to flap about
growing legs on the bank. At brain
stem's root the memory that once
we drew a perfect wake across a
still morning when there was no
sound but air comparing notes with

W vau: a hook
Waa waa baby cry.
Waa waa. Maa maa.
Daa daa.

X samech: a prop
They hold us straight as a
row of beans. Without them
we'd flop and muddle. Futharc
and ogam on wooden stakes.
Majuscule, uncial and all
those clever bastards who
have spelled out our rattle
and marked the spot where we
were lying buried.

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Y vau: a hook
Here it is shaking above the
hidden spring. And here it
is split for two wishes. And
here it is wine flowering on
a slender stem. Break the
glass with a dancing foot.
Let the wine run.

Z zayin: lightning
In a flash all is made plain:
an ordinary tale passed breath
to breath, like living. We perch
claws caught in the skin of a
shining tree. We sing with our
heads tilted to the storm. We
sing the song that is known only
in this valley. We pass it on.