Body Language

Jack Kelly


The rower sits, straight-backed,
like the letter “L”
in his scull,
at the beginning of his row;
at the close,
the letter “C”,
curved with exhaustion.

Semitic, Greek,
Etruscan, Roman,
the river of forming
sounds into speech
is far from a straight one,

“L’s” origin being
Semitic, for lamed,
meaning “ox goad”
(The rower goads the back of the river
with his oars.)which became
lambda, in the Greek,
which the Romans wrote L.

“C”, in the Semitic,
was “g”, the Etruscans
changed to “k”,
which the Romans took on.
(The rower, having covered
the length of the river,
curves his body, gasping
to take in air.)

The irony!  Letters shaped,
slowly through millennia,
to use in speaking.
Yet, all I need do
is read the shapes of the rowers’ bodies
to know what they are feeling,
without their speaking a word.

Philip Kuepper

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