Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!


Where are words when not yet spoken:
on the tongue,
in the mind,
perhaps in air,
Their meanings, more elusive
still, unbreathed await
though I have heard
in the beginning was the word.


Mutes and dentals shape the air
that tongue addresses to the ear:
speech is the mystery we hear.
Animals are dumb,
their braying, chirp, and bark
a mere semblance of speech,
lacking that shared spark
when speaker and hearer commune
like hands that meet at noon.