Hard to Say

Sometimes I like to hide in the word
foxgloves – in the middle of foxgloves.
The xgl is hard to say, out of the England
of its harbouring word.
Alone it becomes a small tangle,
a witch’s thimble, hard-to-toll bell,
elvish door to a door. Xgl
a place with a locked beginning
then a snag, a gl
like the little Englands of my grief,
a knotted dark that locks light
in glisten, glow, glint, gleam
and Oberon’s banks of eglantine
which closes in on the opening
of Gulliver whose shrunken gul
says ‘rose’ in my fatherland.
Meanwhile, in the motherland, the xg
is almost the thumb of a lost mitten,
an impossible interior, deeper than forests
and further in. And deeper inland
is the gulp, the gulf, the gap, the grip
that goes before love.

~Zaffar Kunial “Foxglove Country” from England’s Green

I can get lost in a word when considering its origins. Sometimes it is how it looks on the page or screen that sucks me in, other times it is how it rolls off the tongue, or how it fits amid other words, like a musical note in a symphony. At times a word can seem an argle-bargle of nonsensical sounds, as if I’m listening to a foreign language.

This poem dissects an ordinary word like foxglove into letters and sounds in a way I have never considered, so that the flowers growing wild in our yard contain unexpected depth and width. Even eglantine is an elegant way to describe wild rose blossoms.

I love looking deep into the pinkish speckled innards of foxglove, lined up just-so in bell-like columns on a stem. I love the thought they were named as if they were little mittens a fox might happen to step into for a trot down the road. I love the thought of foxgloves being part of a glowing glistening fairy world that I only imagine in my dreams. I love that I have written prescriptions of foxglove derivatives for decades for patients who needed the rhythm-controlling properties of digitalis.

So here’s to nonsense, to words that are hard to say, and words that contain mysteries and fairytales within their letters, especially this particular word that actually spells out Love.


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