Bleeding Heart Art Space–Language, Words, Tongues


The folks at Bleeding Heart Art Space

curate a context for conversations, connections and creativity centered around art, faith, hope and love.

They are tied in with the Art’s revitalization on 118 Avenue, a community they live in and love.

Bleeding Heart is art space, sacred space and community space all in one. Words they use to describe themselves are: engaging, inclusive, redemptive, local, artistic excellence, awestruck.

A few evenings ago, for their ‘sacred space’ event, Speak my Language, I was honoured to be invited to write a couple poems to present on the theme of language. The first poem was to be something just to get us thinking about this mysterious ability and aptitude for language, this vertical world, as far as we know, unique to we humans. And so the following:

Consider the mechanics:
your thought, a lexical chain,
turns wheel, pushrod presses diaphragm,
air rushes from lungs to trachea, 
excites larynx, passes over vocal folds,
periodic pulses of glottis, fashions phonemes,
for post-throat conditioning,
and in the roll and yaw of mandible
tongue clicks free from its cavity,
flings phonemes through caves of mouth
and nose, past teeth to lip aperture,
and you pray, that this phonetical filament,
in resonance of pitch and tone,
might bear some similarity
to your original thought.

If language was used less,
it may last longer.
But tell that to the tongue.

The tongue, impatient,
conceives its own path,

no chain of thought
threatens its domain.
It is too nimble, too quick;
jacks up minds,
high-jacks hearts.

So heart and mind
must take tongue
by the hand,
to the wilderness,
with its slow forms
of fingers, feather quills,
ink and bark,

to peel and pare,
and make tongue fit,
for a king indicting
a goodly matter.
The tongue at last,
the pen
of a ready writer.

I tell my love:
words fall through space
out of sheer loneliness.
Go wild on their own,
pine for connective tissue.

Take this noun for instance,
huddled against abstraction,
vagrant, indigent, dying in isolation
even with other nouns.

But should a willing adjective stop by,
noun is changed, liberated, coloured,
like a scarlet macaw, through coupling.

And see that verb that glances,
how it’s struck by the painted preposition
enticed into a syntactical ménage à trois
to create the tight triadic world
of a sentence.

Forging fact or fantasy, able to convey
beauty or blight, hate or light,
or this singular thought:
My love, I adore you.

I know a poet who listens
to the spaces between words.
Narrows the gap
of these small cracks
through which meaning falls.
Resists the temptation
to choose the better sounding word
rather than the right one.
Waits for 20 years
until the better sounding word
becomes the right one.

Language is a river,
its headwater unscalable, unseen;
gathers lexicon from a great glossal
basin of branches, feeders, rills.
And dialectic detritus from distant rains.

River winds, flows toward fluent confluences
of meaning; meaning shared,
then sundered by rocks and rapids;
languishes in argot eddies,
reconstitutes in quiet currents.

Silt, sediment, alluvial sleep, force
lingual bends into overstated arches
until banks are breached and the bend
cut off, leaving behind an oxbow lake,
stagnant as Latin.

Still the river flows.


  1. What imagery, and wondrous utility of metaphor to add sight and sound to what words on a page merely introduce!
    Brilliantly done, Steve!

  2. Masterfully done, Mr. Berg! I usually don’t like poetry that attempts to hold a magic mirror to itself, but damn I like this! The passion and respect in which you approach the alphabet is unmistakable–and watching words and ideas break apart and fall through your fingers is a magical thing. Excellent work!

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