Third el­e­ment of the Pe­ri­odic Ta­ble; ad­jec­ti­val de­riv­a­tive of Greek lithos (rock); “made of rock”

New England Review - - Cultural History -

Sisy­phus with his rock knows about same. Same rock. Same jour­ney forc­ing him into same self. And now I too have my daily rock push­ing me up against a samer self.

What did you lose, Sisy­phus?

My­self, I first lost the sense of my­self as lit fuse step­ping on detonators; my old nick­name, “Vol­cano.”

You lost far more than the yen to rus­tle cat­tle. I’m sure of it.

Next went whis­perlight sleep. I used to waken if a moth snored; I missed noth­ing. Tied to this stone, I sink im­me­di­ately; the world, de­spite my inat­ten­tion, turns.

What about your wheedling tongue? Do you miss be­ing able to talk your way into and out of any­thing?

Strangest for me, the con­fetti-form­ing over my words. Now when I see “Fol­low my di­rec­tions ex­actly” I read “Fol­low my ac­tions di­rectly.” Om­ni­science now sug­gests omis­sions ; in per­ti­nent I hear a lurk­ing penitent and as­pi­ra­tion surely needs an aspirin.

Hor­ri­fied, in some mea­sure at least, my laugh­ter used to be at those who said bib­li­cal cord

for um­bil­i­cal, or or­nithol­o­gist for on­col­o­gist; who spoke of Tener­ife when they meant Tel Aviv.

Such au­ral malap­pro­pri­a­tion seemed to me so wrong, and yet no word ex­ists alone. Each has tackle to grap­ple it to other words, to make mean­ing and sen­tence; but each, also, an aura—spokes of au­ral trac­eries, so that the cuckoo of or­nithol­o­gist sits as spok­ily in its can­cer-care nest as does plum with plump . . .

Sisy­phus, my tongue that spoke straight, cor­rect, now bends to the roof of my mouth to send the stone down my throat.

Ela Har­ri­son

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