Week 9. Circumlocution

Licking rocks, letting ants crawl across the expanse of our palm, smelling dirt.  The language of science is tactile.  Words come later as something we must be taught.  When I started to read published peer-reviewed articles I could understand the stand alone words, but not the collection of words in sentences. 

Like a foreigner in a new land, I read without comprehending until I passed the invisible boundary. Then like a fiction writer, I channeled this learned voice into my own hand and pen.

To make one word exact can take a whole army of words.

Or, when a speaker is confused and they search for an anchor, grab onto everything as they fall, they throw words behind them like marbles as they run for a dark alley.

Materials: Peer-reviewed scientific articles, glue stick, scissors.

When I was in grad school, I volunteered at a free clinic. I took vitals and helped with insurance and interpreted. I didn’t have to be fluent in Spanish, but I had to be able to circumlocute.

We have so few scripts for difficult things – for being in pain, being depressed or hurt, being undocumented and overworked.

Circumlocution reveals so much. The fewer words you know, the more you give of yourself, the more poetic and vulnerable you become.

Someone told me recently that it’s wrong to love my work, when my field of research – viruses – causes so much suffering. So I circumlocute – describe their shapes, interactions – revealing myself through their language.

Materials: Watercolors


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