Wringing Words

Okay, so I'm not a poet. But Pablo Neruda was. He had a passion for words, kinda like me. But look how alive his are:

You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it is the words that sing; they soar and descend. I bow to them, I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down. I love words so much: the unexpected ones; the ones I wait for greedily are stalked until, suddenly, they drop. Vowels I love: they glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish. They are foam, thread, metal, dew. I run after certain words. They are so beautiful I want to fit them all into my poem. I catch them in mid-flight as they buzz past. I trap them, clean them, peel them. I set myself in front of a dish: they have a crystalline texture to me: vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agate, like olive. And then I stir them. I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I garnish them, I let them go. I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coal, pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves. Everything exists in the word.

My toes are curled. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

Lest you think my obeisance is unwarranted, the Bible seems to put great stock in words. God made the world with them, they have the power of life and death, and we are judged by the ones we speak. Furthermore, Scripture is called the Word as is the Savior of Mankind (Jn. 1:1).

It's a bit sobering to consider that, as writers, we are called to manage such precious, volatile, fragile commodities. Words are our stock in trade... and a temperamental bunch they are. Some words cannot stand each other, and we must be on guard to allow them their distance. Others plead for friends, begging for someone to complement them. Some are shy, others flamboyant; some are blue collar, everyday, while others are specialists, waiting for an hour on the stand. Search your manuscript friend, they're right there -- clashing, snoring, tapping their feet impatiently. If "everything exists in the word," as the poet said, then it's you, Dear Writer, who are called to bleed them of their essence.

So listen up. Can you hear it? That shrill peeling in the distance? It's not a bell. Or a siren. Or the whistle that signals the night crew from the dusty quarry. It's the sound of the writer at work. Wringing. Always wringing. Squeezing, stretching, slicing and extracting. Can you hear it? It's a wringing... the wringing of words.


Ame said...

Love it - what I think I love most is your knowing that what you write is of great importance to God. Nope, you're not Frost or Neruda, but I'm sure that if we knew them we would all be glad God made only one of them . . . and he made only one of you . . . and only one of me. Your words are of great importance to God because YOU are of great importance to God . . . as we all are individually and intimately so. What God has given you to write is unique to you, gifted only to you, for His ultimate glory. So, do not give up the poetry - loved it - and do not give up the writing . . . of course unless God instructs you to do so in order for Him to use you in another direction!

Heather Smith said...

Wonderfully said, Mike. Words are so important. They can do so much good or so much harm.
Depending on who says the words, they can be so powerful. I mean think about it, "Come forth." from my mouth does nothing, but "Come forth." from Jesus' mouth brought a man back to life.
May we all weigh our words and use just the ones that God would have us to share!
Thanks, Mike!

Dineen A. Miller said...

Wow, this made me realize something I had overlooked. I'd always "prided" myself as someone who knew how to use words, spoken words. Then we moved to Europe and communicating in a language I barely knew was SO frustrating. I couldn't say things the way I wanted to. It wasn't until after we moved back from Europe that I was able to write book length. Maybe God wanted to break me of what I wanted to say so I could write what he was putting on my heart. Very cool! Thanks!

michael snyder said...

Another outstanding post. I really love how your mind works and, well...how you string words together.

Ane Mulligan said...

Mike, this is beautiful. I don't know why oyu think you aren't poetic. This was a sunset of poetry, brilliantly colored with...WORDS! You paint quite a picture, my friend. Mayeb you aren't a poet, but you are an artist.

Gina Holmes said...

Mike, though I can't seem to say it the way you so eloquently have, I agree. To put it my way...words good!

Mike Duran said...

Hey, thanks for all the encouragement folks. Without you all prodding me forward, I'd probably still be wringing words for the Local Letters editorial page.

Ame, thanks for the reminders of our blessed uniqueness. Heather, as long as I hear Jesus say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," I shall indeed be in heaven. Dineen, terrific insights about our need for fluency in at least one tongue. Mike, our minds are probably more alike than you care to admit. Ane and Gina, I'll never be able to repay you for the lessons in wonderful wordology. Blessings to all!

siouxsiepoet said...


Mary Yerkes said...

Wow, Mike! Outstanding post!

I plan to print this out and put it in my writer's daybook (the book I use to inspire me on days when the words just won't flow...)

BTW, I sent my readers over to your site to be inspired:>

Sandy Cathcart said...


Thanks very much for your inspiring words! So well said. I just now found your site through Novel Journey. So glad I did. I plan to share your post with my writing class this week. And I absolutely love your quotes. The greatest. I just started a blog you might be interested in that I'm hoping will be fun and inspiring to writers like you. You are inspiring to all of us. Thanks again.

Vicki said...

Love the way you wring your words, Mike. Mary sent me. It's been a beautiful read.

Kelly Klepfer said...

Oh, sure, up the bar, Mike.

Not only do I have to watch my adverbs, comma placement and spelling. I have to remember the value and weight of words.


You can find me in the closet. I'm the one in the fetal position sucking my thumb.

Mike Duran said...

Hey thanks all for the comments! Good to see some new faces -- Sandy and Vicki, greetings! Siousxsiepoet, blessings to you. Ame, Heather, Dineen, Michael, Ane, Gina, Mary, and Kelly (whew!), you guys are the best. Thanks for making Decompose one of your cyber-stops. Grace to all!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,
I'm one of Sandy's students,and a believer.I love words,too. The power of the written word is indescribable. Oh Lord, make our words the best combination of sharp and sweet. Elle Bea

Jeanne Damoff said...

Okay. Wow. I've found a brother. I'm so glad you added your blog address to your e-mail, Mike.

I read in your words the exquisite ache I feel in my soul--a beauty so unbearable, it demands expression. No photograph can possibly capture it. Only words suffice. And even they fall short, but at least they ease the tension.

Be sure and stop by MA this Thursday (2-23). I think you'll want to play along.