A Fixed Vocabulary

Is there a word for arriving home after a hot day and finding the place changed, as if everything has been picked up for inspection and put back down in a different spot?

What is the word for being surprised by how high the weeds on the train line have grown?

What is the word for not having words not for stupefaction but for a steady erosion, like waves crashing against the sandstone coast?

What is the word for being terrified of death but only at the mention of death?

Speaking of death, what is the word for that impulse to tell a dead person something and then the sudden recollection that, no, no that’s impossible?

What is the word for the charmed snake?

What is the word for feeling like you know everything from the hilly plains to the knotted alleyways of a place you’ve never been?

What is the word for sitting and watching the time of an appointment pass?

What is the word for hearing the screech and rattle of a passing train when you are nowhere near a station or, for that matter, train line with or without surprisingly tall weeds?

What is the word for mangoes and mineral water in summer?

What is the word for always choosing the pen that doesn’t work?

What is the word for wanting madness? The word for wanting it to enter your home without knocking? For wanting it to live quiet in your gut like a tapeworm?

What is the word for the healed broken bone? Collar bone, wrist bone, nasal bone.

What is the word for what is the word for when you grapple for grapple for that word?

What’s the word for not having, but wishing you had, a father in childhood, but not being able to, now, muster any sort of anger about that not having?

And what is the word for those absences, those voids, in the memory of your childhood? Time has passed, and so they must have happened, and yet –

What is the word for feeling like vomiting on your shoes from anxiety or from frustration or from desire – new shoes, tightly laced, so crisp and white they nearly glow in the dark?

What is the word for wanting to go back to Ho Chi Minh City but only so you can again walk the strange, time-frozen, modernist hallways of the Reunification Palace?

What is the word for that look that look?

Or that thing thing that thing that thing off in the distance?

What is the word for the silent smoker on his balcony watching everything, cottony spider webs strung between the legs of his chair?

What is the word for the miracle that is the momentary fragment of life that every wasp and beetle has?

What is the word for seeing the inside of somebody’s home from a passing train (the weeds tall between the train line) and feeling like you left something of you behind with them?

 
 

Image credit: Michael Verhoef

 
 

The Learned Pig

Tristan Foster

Tristan Foster is a writer from Sydney, Australia. Most recently he has had work published in Gorse, Music & Literature, The Stockholm Review of Fiction, Sleepingfish, Visual Verse and Black Sun Lit. He is an editor at 3:AM Magazine.