Mom was doing the supper dishes.
A few weeks earlier I had experienced this epiphany: SOME WORDS CAN RHYME! And to me somehow, well, that was just plain HUGE! Rhyming! It was Fun! And when I'd just conjure rhymes right out of thin air, it was Powerful Magic. It made people notice me, and happily laugh. And oh, I was a little 'performer' at that time... especially for Mom...
SO: there I was building my little castle turret... and there Mom was mounting saucers into the counter rack to dry...
"Cat," I said. And then "hat." And then "bat." And then "rat." I looked up at Mom, beaming her encouragement back down upon me. She was so proud of her little Tommy. Oh, he was such a little smarty! "Fat!" chirped this probable future President of the United States here...
"Dog," she suggested
I thought about 'dog.' And then grinned. Okay... "Frog!" Hah! Easy! "Log!" Hey, I was born for this... "Fog!" Oh yeah, I was in my element. My future had 'Wordsmith' written all over it... "Nog!" (I was an egg nog addict, back then. Mom made killer homemade egg nogs.) "Hog!"
Okay, my turn to suggest one... "Snake!" But oh, this one wasn't so easy... ooh... I was stuck here. But then, "Cake?" Mom grinned, and returned to her dish pan. "Bake!" And the game droned happily onward... me producing one-syllable nouns from my limited vocabulary and dredging up any and all possible 'sound-alikes.' Nothing but peace and harmony there in the Garden of Eden...
"Oh, I know: Duck!" Hmmm... Let's see now...? Duck... duck...How... 'bout...this...
It's heart-stopping, isn't it, how fast the world around you can be yanked inside-out when you least expect it, like some wrinkled tee-shirt plucked from the clothes dryer... how fast somebody's mood- pendulum can be pin-balled across a room to ricochet off the walls? Suddenly I was no longer parked on my scrawny little butt upon the kitchen linoleum. No. Instead, quick as a wink, I found myself way up there in the middle of the air so to speak... and, speaking of pendulums, my Red Ball Jets were swaying left, and then right, at the ends of my little pant-legs hanging way down there below me all akimbo.
I was the reverse of Pinocchio: I had been the real live boy a second ago... now I was the puppet (suspended not on strings, but...) dangling from Mom's painfully clutched fists my armpits. And Mom's pretty and beautiful face was now an Old Testament, fire-and-brimstone gargoyle... It was not my mama's face...
"WHAT?" But despite the horror, I shakily tried maintaining my very shy winning smile. A smile that was, okay, wilting fast right there on my skull, as the suspicion that I HAVE DONE SOMETHING AWFULLY BAD AND WRONG! began to gain a solid foothold... a smile that, if it could speak, would say, "What? Was it something I... said...?"
See, here's something I had no way of knowing back then. That in spite of the fact that we kids were all being raised as Methodists, Mom had actually been brought up in one of the more fundamentalist, 'holy-rolling' brands of churches. And whereas Methodists go to church for a single hour on a Sunday, in Mom's church your family'd pack a humongous picnic basket because you'd end up having to spend the whole freaking Sunday there, singing and yelling out your Hallelujahs! and your 'Oh yes, Brothers and Sisters!' And whereas Methodists might politely consider a sermon discussing the twin natures of Evil and Goodness, Mom's church brethren trained themselves as Satan-spotters!
And right here and now, in a flashback to her old church days apparently, Mom's stare probed down into my big doe-brown eyes and glimpsed, I guess, the Prince of Darkness peering right back out of the sockets at her. Oh, she danced me in the air like a rag doll. "TOMMY! YOU... are going straight to..."
"What? To where, Ma?"
"To bed, MISTER! Oh my! Don't you ever...EVER...! Oh my! How...? How would you know...?"
"Know what, Ma?"
But there was no time to discuss this apparently, as I had just become the immediate recipient of one of those classic Satan, get thee behind me moments: me (Satan) whisked (behind thee) away... flown off to my bedroom as deliberately as Superman would fly an apprehended bank robber straight to the nearest federal penitentiary and drop him smack down in the middle of the exercise yard. I was a felon... somehow.
I got Solitary Confinement for awhile. I was left to contemplate what I had said, along with my apparently Evil ways in general. The only problem with that was, I had no idea what it was I'd said... couldn't for the life of me even remember what it was... All I'd done was utter a sound. A single syllable! And the world around me had fallen down around me like some toy tower made of wooden blocks.
Words, I thought.
Words are dangerous. Powerful.
A fella's gotta be careful around words...
Explosives and Demolitions by Tom Lyford
I classify the nouns in my arsenal
in ascending order: blasting caps
grenades, C-4, det cord
and anti-tank mines
adjectives and adverbs?
Just so much
fuse and firing wire
My poems aren’t about
the daffodil or cloud
My poems aren’t pretty--
they’re crude, they’re loud
I am the Guy Fawkes,
the Ted Kaczynski of poetry…
into lethal combinations…
into weapons of mass description…
If I’m not meticulous
I’ll blow my damn fingers off!
So before you read one of mine aloud
you better yell
Fire in the hole!