‘Language Acquisition (1 Corinthians 13)’

by Joel Fraser

These couplets clang as cymbals
These gongs resound their rhythms
We crash in tearful frustration
For all of our creation
Amounts to no more than this:
A lip-locked struggle for air
And words.
Must we choose?

Tongues of men and angels, we can master
But I know that they are jars of alabaster
Half-cut, empty, pencil sketches
Signs pointing nowhere but inwards.
Teach us to let them fall, crack, and pour out their emptiness

For as my void bellows
Wrenches its heaving, metal weight
Through closed windpipes and clenched jaws
The wordless whisper that is ripped from me
Is translated, as I love

A tiny blot of paint appears
And a word flitters musically,
Threatens to harmonise with the melody
That I can now imagine hearing
And I realise
The beyond of the reflection
That this framed mirror of life lets me see

I am still mute mostly
But You speak and I hear the sounds,
The flung phonemes, tones and inflections
And from all these imperfect reflections
You are teaching me the art
Of picturing the whole from its part.


The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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