I just had a conversation with a friend who tells me that the “politicized deaf” don’t think of deafness as a disability.  She tells me that profoundly deaf people can communicate without words – that means without even signs which signify words.  That’s right – without anything we might recognise as – like now – communication.
When I hear this I suffer an immediate and profound failure of imagination.  I cannot see how this can be possible.
I can’t imagine this is true.
I am deeply, deeply envious – my view of the world is so boxy.
Why can’t I imagine this is true?

I remember crouching under hedges and hiding in long grass for hours as a child willing fairies to appear.  And willing myself back in time.  And willing myself to be transported to somewhere impossible – thousands of feet in the air looking down, or under the sea, or England.  And knowing it wouldn’t happen but not begrudging the time and energy spent willing it anyway.  It seemed then, to be time well spent.
And now I am presented with the reality of – what? – telepathy, and I can barely muster a puzzling frown.

Things to which we cannot attach words…
Of summer: I am cycling past a shrub that has a strong pink smell and I can hear the sound of tyres driving through water and I see the water is coming from an overflowing fire hydrant, and it is rushing down the road in the sun so this water is alive with stars and the cars’ tyres are shushing through it and, because of the heat, you can smell that water.
Can that be summer?
Not exactly pithy.

This is the difficulty: the sensation of summer could be sweat trickling down my back under my shirt. But when sweat trickles down my back I am very aware of that.  It is too quantifiable. I am looking for things that occur on a sleepier level.  So, not sweat trickling but yes the heat from the sun hitting a very small part of my face, on my cheek, just under the eye – when that reaches a certain temperature, a toasty orange temperature – that is summer.
My boys asleep in their beds on top of their duvets, like dogs – balls to the world.
Yes. That’s not winter.

Sometimes chasing down the scent that really leads to that thing, that sleeping boy, that shushing of tyre through water on hot road, that sensation, whether I’m writing a poem or texting a babysitter, is so incredibly physical.  It can be difficult to stay sitting down writing.  I’m an over-excited, jazz pianist – one foot on the keyboard, face all over the mic.  Not trying to get it right.  Trying to get it.

Then I am told that there are people who are free of this effort.

I am so fastidious about the truth I cannot imagine a situation in which it is simply impossible to lie.  What happens to that fastidiousness?

If I couldn’t hear, what words might I like to see?
There are certain words I love to see said – one of my kids has a weak R, when he hits an R it is a little soft kiss. The middle one has a lisp and because he has just lost a front tooth, the compensation he makes is delicious.  His little mouth mountaineering around certain words is beautiful.  My husband never uses a light L, for some reason, so every L he says, his tongue leaves his mouth for a tiny moment.  I’m sorry but it is the cutest thing.  And you can’t hear that.

Last night I sat in a friend’s living room after pizza and she read poems to me really quietly as the day crept out of the room.  Other signs of summer: how we left her house for the walk to the last tube without stopping for coats – that straight line.  No word for that.



7 thoughts on “Summerwords

  1. Yeah, the synaesthesia reference is spot on. I have always had a synaesthesia with maths – when I do arithmetic it’s like I see landscapes, and imagine myself moulding the hills and valleys around me – I can see and smell everything, but what comes out is a number. The weirdest feeling.
    Love what you’re doing with words

  2. thanks Bobbie, thanks Dan – it’s a bit of a fascination at the moment… what we assume we know about words AND how other people use them. A bottomless area.
    Did I say bottomless? Yes. Sigh. Something like that.

  3. Wow, yes, that IS a big question. I used to teach philosophy of language, so do shout if you ever want to natter. Also, do check out (ignore the content warning uless you’re very easily offended, he’s really mild for a writer) – he is a professional modernist who uses the blog to try and do new things with words. I’m intrigued by the mention of deafness. You should look up the blog of @deafmuslim She IS offensive some of the time, but she ahs an incredible way with words, and as a deaf playwright has some really insightful things to say

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