Friday, April 8, 2011

Poetry Friday: Magic Words

This poem, translated from the Inuit, was the first poem I saw in New York City's wonderful Poetry in Motion project, which put poems in advertising spaces in the subways and buses.

In the very earliest time,
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen—
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody can explain this:
That’s the way it was.


More Poetry Friday at Madigan Reads.


Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, gosh! The whole poem is magical!

I've been rereading J.R.R. Tolkien, and there are bits here and there about the power of words before the ancient languages of the Elves were changed by men. It's a fascinating idea--but something I could, on the right dark and stormy night, believe was actually the case in ages lost to us. (Heck, I confess that I don't even need a dark and stormy night. I'd believe it at a drop of hat.)

Pentimento said...

I love that last couplet: "Nobody can explain this./That's the way it was." It says so much while giving away so little, not unlike the mysteries of our own faith!