Monday, May 23, 2011

Doing it right

"You need to learn to swear," he told me.
"A Quaker like you, so controlled
--it's not healthy."

I wondered if he might be right.
I did feel choked up at times
by the undone dishes and frayed edges,
not to mention the major injustices of life.

Leaning into memory, I brought up
words from TV and novels, phrases
my grandfather had used when provoked.
I rehearsed them mentally,
avoiding the mirror.

A few weeks later,
something he said (I can't remember what),
--a twist of sarcasm, a patronizing hint--
and a voice whispered, "Now."
I looked straight at him
and with a keen and measured ferocity said,
"I just don't give a hell."

In the following silence, I realized
I hadn't quite brought it off.
Finally he said, "If you're going to swear,
at least do it right."

Warning: I'm practicing.
Next time I'll get it.
Mountains will quake.


  1. Why do some people need to practice and others don't? My husband sometimes says "you got stuff in your mouth I wouldn't put in my hand." I respond: "If you've got better words to express this, I'll be happy to use them." It could well be that your extensive vocabulary makes swearing unnecessary.

  2. Did you see "The King's Speech"? It was fascinating to note how the king could swear without stuttering, one of the few forms of speech available to him. I wonder why that is.