Even Words Grow Old

Today’s contribution to poetry month is Owen Marshall’s Even Words Grow Old from Occasional, published by Hazard Press, 2004.


Even words grow old


Even words grow old, finally over the hill

hearts grown cold though husks there still.

Piquant vocabulary becomes as a museum’s

buttoned shoes. Idioms rattle in the text

shrivelled in their shells, and prejudice

of an age lies exposed in bare expression.


Smiles of grammatical exactitude tighten

to a pedant’s rictus. Even words grow

old, no matter how resolute the will, and

meanings fade as the subtle colours of

the dying salmon. thus convulsive mutation

and slower evolution gather their ambiguity


and blunt that first magnificent precision

so kids can only mouth at Shakespeare and

olde Chaucer. Simulacra abound, amiable

dissembling appearance, yet meaning warped

or meanings true but faces hard to recognise

as cracked, dim frescos of Etruscan beauty.


Imprisoned on the page, even words grow old

sentenced to repetition and static senility

flashes of wonder and fleeting comprehension

from all points of the compass, but no one

direction. Strange things lie buried: bog

corpses of language of which we lack memory.


So writing’s fabric wears thin, and dresses

of the past no longer cover our modern hips.

Persian sages gave their dingle, immutable

injunction, and paradox, This Too Will Pass.

Even words grow old- but spawn afresh, thank God

bright, nervous fingerlings, perfectly attuned.


             – Owen Marshall –

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