Listen to the recorded live version while you read …

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 
a poem by Anamaría Crowe Serrano

Ó Bhéal

for the Ó Bhéal audience in Cork – the regulars and irregulars

what is the word
if not its mouth
open
closed
stretched pursed
the lips-teeth-tongue-palate-ridge quintet
and the little squiggly bit
dangling at the back
of your throat
good for Spanish words like jengibre
and even simple English words
like hjello, hjow are you?
air, funnelling
from lungs through larynx
to fill the mouth
with all those things you want to say
                                              ó bhéal

the beauty of the word
slithering
into consciousness from
nada into dada
embryonic fission
splitting morph
and eme, then merging
into multi-syllababble
tumbling with its own
momentum towards
intelligible speech
                       ó bhéal

without that struggle
to be heard
how would we reveal
the workings of the psyche
the splintered contradiction
of unspoken word
synaptic between thought and
articulation
agglutinating silence
with the spectre of a sound
a hum, a murmur, gurgle, giggle
cough, a plosive genie
puffed into the air
with fricatives confused around it
shitting flipping fecked expletives
flustering the aaaaah… the
ooooOOoooo the frightened eeeeee!
of vowels voiced
                       ó bhéal
glottic, gloopy
startled by the jams and crashes
the trafficking of letters
in the buccal cavity

the word, once learned
muddles through a medley
of vibrations
plucks the cords
that build up to the quiet word
the quick word, the good word
the weasel word wrestling
with an focal fíor
                       ó bhéal,
palabrota on parole, parola
chiave for that crossword
and the buzzword – in other words
a magic word, mot juste
i giri-giochi di parole
and an focal deireanach
that takes the words
right out of your mouth

even the single word
can sing
when it’s ó bhéal
           pipistrello
                       suaimhneas
                                  książka
and the word
you give when you give
your word – parole d’honneur –
is especially melodious
to the ear
not like the single word as in
I want a word with you
there’s no melody in that one
that’s just an understatement
morbidly bulldozing
through your self-esteem

so much individuality
in the flowery speak
of some folk, their mouth
sui generis
perennially in bloom
pushing up from the undergrowth
mercurial quirky weedy words
                                ó bhéal
that feed unwitting wit and foul
poor mrs. malaprop
with clangers, blunders, gaffs
and howlers

           who cares what a noun
           or a continent is? You don’t need
           to know the difference
           between additives and syllables
           to string a sentence together

speech will forge its path
master megalithic gamuts
of palaver
loud and clear
in tandem with the listening ear
the audience
           you
           usted
           tusa
           pañstwo
           sibhse go léir
the word hammers home
spirals the air
chochlear and muscley
alive-alive-o
nourishes a thought
a cog that feeds
the sparks and churns the neurons
turning word salads
into proper food for thought
wordy wisdom
solidarity, global in its scope
whether spoken whispered shouted sung
it’s ours
à nous e tutti noi
linking us in an embrace
that filters into far-flung corners
of the heart
when we communicate
                                ó bhéal
 
 
Anamaría Crowe Serrano is Irish and lives in Dublin with her family. She is currently a freelance translator and teacher of the Spanish language. She has published several translations of poetry including Valerio Magrelli’s Instructions on How to Read a Newspaper (Chelsea Editions, 2008). Other work includes a collection of short stories, Dall’altra parte (Leconte, Rome, 2003), a one-act play, The Interpreter (Delta3 Edizioni, 2003), and a collection of poems, Paso Doble, (Empiria, Rome, 2006) written as a poetic dialogue with the Italian poet Annamaria Ferramosca. Her first full length collection of poetry, Femispheres, was published by Shearsman, UK, in March 2008.