One Word (poem)

by J.S. Porter

(for Mark Garber)

       One word,
    the right word,
and Jericho tumbles,
    the egg cracks.

        One word
     the right word,
        and what is
              isn’t.

                Is
      the one word,
      the right word,
     Arabic or Aramaic?

                We
       know what is
       by what isn’t.
      The one word,
       the right word,
isn’t from Esperanto
too new, too artificial
       no root, no guts.

                We
     know by echoes.
       The one word,
        the right word,
          comes back
        like a boomerang,
ah, the sound of our pain,
a, the letter of our longing.

                Not
            abracadabra,
            mere cliche,
                   but
       a word that begins
       with what it ends—
                alpha.

         The one word,
         the right word,
               alpha.
If every earthborn speaks it
    out of pain and longing,
      the universe will end,
          and begin again.


  • published in “The New Quarterly“:http://newquarterly.uwaterloo.ca/, Vol. VIII, No. 1, Spring, 1988.

I’ve altered the punctuation slightly from the original.

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