Variation on a theme by E M Foster
Dedicated to
Bonnie Staiger
who administered
a much needed kick
followed by sage advice

You have made your point and now
it is up to me to respond
to say what I think.

But how should I know what I think
except by asking myself
and then waiting
for an answer?

Which may come
by some Jungian alchemy,
already spilling from my tongue
and I would know what I think
simply by hearing
what I say.

Or it may strike as a flash of lightning
illuminating in a blink
the landscape of knowledge
and leaving me briefly speechless
until the clap of thunder
shocks forth a quick shower of words
from clouds already heavy with meaning.

Or it may tiptoe in later
on the border of sleep,
to slip quietly
into the background awareness,
lying low
biding its time,
ready to be at the tip of the tongue
when called for.

Or it may come tomorrow
in a different guise,
or some other day
or never at all,
and I'll have to shrug my shoulders
and sheepishly
change the subject.

But if and when it does come,
how do I know that it is
no, not true
       that perennial sore tooth of philosophy
       to be endlessly worried by one's mother tongue
but simply right
here and now
within the particular context
of our meanings?

I would need some space of time
to close my eyes,
to feel its shape and texture
with my fingers,
weigh it on the scales
of my certainties and doubts,
whether it sounds ripe
when tapped,
turn it over
prod it
taste it
until satisfied
that it will do.

I may still want
to smooth it and shape it
on the potter's wheel
of days or seasons,
not by "blood, sweat and tears"
but less portentously
by mugs of coffee and tea,
until it may slot
into the contours of my landscape.
Or not.

But that's for later.
In the meantime
your simple presence
just there
across the sea-wide breadth of an email
urges me to respond,
and so I take a deep breath
and set my fingers free
to roam the keyboard
making this reply
actually happen.

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Mike Arnautov (04 October 2022)