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About this Poem 

"This is one of those poems whose source and meaning remain uncertain even to the author. I hadn't planned to write it, wrote it quickly, and don't know how to paraphrase it. Most poems like that go into the circular file, but friends have said they liked it, so I've decided to trust their judgment and let it stand."
—Alfred Corn

Having Words

Alfred Corn, 1943

They’d started meeting by night at the only local,
A seething crowd drawn from among the loudest
Words, swearing, conspiring, over tankards of ale.
In sour chiaroscuro their clenched faces by moments
Looked too grievance or was it expressive for comfort.

Rage drowns out background sounds such as summer
Crickets, the result, that one of them, in humid
Darkness, stops rasping his metal comb. It’s clear
That the rally of Words will turn demonic,
That before night ends they’ll be up in arms.

Even the rawest learner can in a clock tick
Become aware of the name it’s called by. Which
He tries on  Cricket  Cricket  till he thinks: Your name
Amounts to a sound, nothing more.
Trundling on
Towards the defiant Words, he says, No. No, I Am Deuce.

Copyright © 2013 by Alfred Corn. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on July 3, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Alfred Corn

Alfred Corn

Alfred Corn was born in Bainbridge, Georgia, in 1943. He grew up

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