portion of the artwork for Ian Farragher's essay

All His Little Words
Ian Farragher

He is a four-letter word: Papa. Simply writing it makes the tears flow again. They blur my view of my screen. They sting. Papa. The word catches in my throat as I bawl, then and now. It’s so incredible that four letters arranged, just so, can be so powerful. Papa: it’s all I need to remember him intact, his love, his misery, and his blue eyes.

The language he learned from his parents was wrong. All their symbols were wrong. So, he found his own words. That language is a part of my earliest memories. He loved the feeling of its syllables: their flow, their sound. To watch him read from Joyce, from himself, was intoxicating. He was happiest when his words found resonance upon full rooms. I believe he imagined women dripping in the wake of his tenor.

Once upon a time he said to us: “There are no bad words. There are only colorful words.”

By his words, a preposition should be as likely as phrases more banal, to get under one’s skin. They should when wielded skillfully. To him, every word held its own grandeur. He knew that before and after could hold just as much awe as cock or cunt. His teaching: to see our words without prejudice. Hence, I’ve decided to skip ahead. This is my Future English, something my Papa would have loved to speak. But he can learn no more.

He’s here in its vocabulary. For all that he was and failed to be, he helped create its beginnings. It’s mine because he helped me learn of joy and despair, of love and rage, of fury and peace.

Table of Contents

FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 40 | Spring 2013