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At a Loss for Words by Mary Campbell

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Mary Egan Campbell

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It sounds like brief. Maybe it encompasses a recognition of something that was brief and short lived. But grief is more than just a short sharp word that resonates like a knife cutting through steel, its very sharpness on the tongue cutting the speaker to the quick. To me the sound of it should be something round and fat and large and all encompassing, a huge word to choke on, that in the effort of delivering it, embodies a great big black hole that sucks the life from all around it. And so I use the word reluctantly as vocabulary can be so limiting when one is stuck for verbal expression of loss and pain that cannot be quantified in an arrangement of letters drawn from a paltry reservoir of twenty six.

These past long dark months of restriction, isolation and fear cannot best be described with truncated words yet how can anyone ever speak of the years 2020 into 2021 in anything other than morbid staccato. In the space of an elephants gestation period our whole world has been turned upside down and things like five year plans or life goals seem like the outlandish rantings of a new world Nostradamus. I too have grieved. I have missed the funerals of family and friends dear to me and mourned my freedom of movement and my Joie de Vivre. But to my shame my greatest loss has been my words.

The gift of the gab would at one point have been an apt description for my epitaph. Verbal diarrhoea though crass would in fact be more accurate as that is how words have always come to me. In unexpected flows, unbidden and unstoppable like molten lava that must find channels to escape. And in the midst of all of that chaos in my head I always found a measure of tranquility. With no one lucid thought to cling onto and over analyse to distinction (as is my wont), I have always been happiest.

It sounds crazy but I grew up in a busy house filled with twelve larger than life people and a multitude of mongrel dogs and cats, where an open door policy regularly saw those numbers swell to treble times that for birthdays and religious celebrations or an All-Ireland Final for the Faithful County on the telly. So peace and quiet was never part of the equation and has remained a foreign concept to me for most of my life. Until now.

But this quiet is not peaceful. It is disquiet. A disease. Uneasy is how I really feel. This emptiness of head and soul is hard to reconcile with when you have come from a rich and colourful miasma of clutter and mayhem like I have. And so, at a loss for words for so long, I am finally staggering back onto the page like an unsteady toddler feeling her way along the furniture, cagey and uncertain, afraid to let go, willing my pen to move but unsure how it will turn out.

I am a recovering wordaholic, on the brink of falling off the wagon again and half hoping that I do!


At a loss for words
And on the brink of giving up
My pen finds it’s way into my palm
And scribbles “this sabbatical has got to stop!”

The ink blots, then flows
Ungainly for the first few lines
Before bursting into legible prose
That soon takes on a whole new life

The drought now gone
Verbal chaos fills my page
Unsteady fingers plodding on
‘Till lucid thought catches up with pace

And so I write
To right the wrongs I wrote
Each word begetting better bytes
My alliteration is full of hope!

(c) Mary Campbell

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

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