Appellations – by Jo Angela Edwins

In the quiet of a kitchen table
in the morning before another creature
in the house is stirring, or else the loud
beat of radio, motor, jackhammer, siren
and city traffic, or the in-between of
an office desk or bank line or lunch counter,
names of things come to you, the sounds
of words you can’t swear to the meaning of
sometimes ringing in your ears like forgotten
favorite songs you never quite learned the lyrics to
but loved the melodies, words that mean
good things and bad, words like amaryllis,
tarantella, tachycardia, monsoon,
elderberry, agapanthus, arpeggio,
and soon enough come nations, towns, rivers,
Tajikistan, Nacogdoches, Chattahoochee,
and animals in familiar foreignness—
armadillo, koala, cephalopod,
and you wonder where the words came from,
and you wonder sometimes where they go
when people stop using them, words like betimes,
doxy, grimalkin, habiliment, and soon
enough you’re considering silence, that valuable
terror, that space between words on the page,
or worse yet, the blankness after the final
period, by which of course you mean death
without saying death to yourself (how did things
turn this dark over words?), and you being you,
which is to say you being human, being worried
about what it means to be alive, you wonder
as humans often must what death will feel like,
when it will come, what happens to you after,
and yes, go on, wonder, we can’t help ourselves—
who will be there to mourn you? What words will they say?

Jo Angela Edwins has published poems in various journals, including Calyx, New South, Number One, Whale Road Review, and Rise Up Review. Her chapbook, Play, was published in 2016. She has received awards from Poetry Super Highway and the South Carolina Academy of Authors and is a Pushcart Prize and Bettering American Poetry nominee. She teaches writing and literature at Francis Marion University and is a board member of SC Humanities.

Photographer’s Note: This photo, through the empty chairs, early light and out-of-focus background, transports me to “the quiet of a kitchen table in the morning before another creature in the house is stirring”. Like the poem, it reminds me of mornings where the peaceful silence allows my mind to wander from one place to another, landing where I had no idea the path of thoughts would lead. Sometimes confused as to the winding route I traveled, it all feels seemingly reasonable once I get there, maybe because it somehow takes me back to the words in my head where it all started.