What Must Be Done (A makeshift statement)

It is often forgotten that (dictionaries) are artificial repositories, put together well after the languages they define. The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature.
– Jorge Luis Borges; The prologue to El Otro, El Mismo.

Words are magic and words are tools. My father told me to use the right tool for the right job and a mot juste is a word-tool so right for the job that it transforms a sentence into an invocation. Despite Dad's advice, I have hammered nails with a wrench, I’ve whittled down words to shim up big ideas, and broken blades when a knife became an impromptu pry bar or screwdriver. I’ve hammered words into ill fitting spaces and have found poetry in the most unlikely places.

We will need dark tools and drop forged words because there is work to be done. We must take “pen in hand, as a sore shouldered and world weary field-man might take a scythe in hand, going forth with naught but the doomful vow of what must be done”, as author Nick Tosches suggests of Dante (in his novel “In the Hand of Dante”). Here are your tasks in order: Roll up your sleeves, sharpen the knives, fill the gas can, compile and distribute a new dictionary. Put on your coveralls and work gloves, heat the water, check the battery and radiator, learn to read Latin, and bundle those cut branches with old telephone cords. Heat the irons, sweep the floor, heal the lame and the blind, sharpen sticks, and straighten bent nails. Chop wood, write a poem, change a light bulb, cast a spell, and make lunch. Empty the rain barrel, work on a Holy Ghost building, cut the lawn, invent a noun resistant language, and light a candle. Dig a hole, get a tattoo, bring the dead back to life, recycle the newspapers or cut them up and rearrange the words. Kill and butcher a cow, tan the hide, and write something on that parchment that’s worth killing a cow for. Get your tools together and sort them for the work to be done, finish on time, save string, pray, and have the typewriter serviced.

Jackson Pollock said, “I am nature”. I'm not nature but I know what must be done when it gets in the way, and these are the tools I’ll need.

Blair Brennan
Fall 2007