Words Fail Me

Word count: 218                  Reading time: 1 min.

Years ago, I saw the Bangarra Dance Theatre perform at the Theatre Royal in Sydney, Australia. The Aboriginal troupe performed Rations and Rush, pieces that explore the torturous path indigenous people have walked since the arrival of European settlers. Dancer Russell Page spoke of the agony and triumphs poignantly with his strong, lithe body. I left the theatre uplifted and saddened.

When I heard of Page’s suicide the very next morning, words failed me. Inexplicable, profound grief, for someone I’d never met, flooded over me. Ten years and one international move later, the program from that performance remains preserved on my bookshelf. The sorrow I felt that sunny winter morning is renewed whenever I remember Russell Page. I don’t claim to mourn him every day but his memory lives at the edge of my consciousness. The words to explain my feelings still escape me.

To paraphrase T.S. Elliot, it’s strange that words are so inadequate. Yet, like the asthmatic struggling for breath, so the writer must struggle for words. Or maybe, as the Bee Gees sang, “It’s only words and words are all I have.” Maybe I expect too much of them.

When have words failed you? What have you done to capture an elusive emotion you want to bring to the page or share with a friend?

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Photo: Bear66