Peter Hammill - "Incoherence" 2004

  1. Incoherence

  2. Incoherence

    (When Language Corrodes)
    And when language corrodes
    all our faculties falter and blur.
    Nobody knows how our tongues got so swollen and furred.
    What truths are there left to be told
    when we're all lost for words?
    Words upon words
    stack the tower of Babel
    brick on brick on straw on clay
    but a whispering stirs
    and the structure's unstable
    when all the scaffold's stripped away.
    We're ever quick to aver
    that we are ready and able
    but we can't say what's coming, come what may.
    By definition self-obsessed
    we strive to make ourselves plain
    with words that pass the acid test
    with passive thought in train.
    Words upon words,
    fiction, folly and fable,
    each pregnant pause a dead giveaway...
    ploughing on undeterred
    as the sell-bys expire on our labels
    though at length we'll have little or nothing to say
    it would be too absurd
    to spend life all agaze at our navels -
    oh, we've got such limited time to go on and explain.
    So, running off at the mouth,
    we all get carried away
    uncertain when it all goes south
    if we mean what we say.
    If we mean what we say....
    independent of the brain
    not a moment to reflect
    only time to wick up the gain
    what was he thinking of and
    why did he dream he could convey a bright idea?
    While his tongue was wagging
    he forgot to use the space between his ears.
    with the cunning of a fox
    paint him devious
    in the corner of the room,
    pop Pandora out of her box.
    What is he on about and
    why are his arguments so needlessly arcane
    in their brilliance?
    He's close to appearing more than slightly inane
    with his crooked logic
    and his dog-eared dictionary close to hand....
    I don't think he's got it
    but he's insistent that we're going to understand
    his complete precision;
    in the end he's certain that we'll all agree
    with his definition...
    an obsolescent word from 1663.
    That says it all for me.
    (Like perfume)
    Once spoken, 
    words perfume the air
    like woodsmoke, like a breath of self that's no longer there.
    Such confidence,
    such half-baked truth...
    the sound of distant voices mocks the hubris of youth.
    (Your word)
    Burnt the bridges, burnt the tread;
    the sodden syllables are turned.
    You can't take back what you said
    when you give your word.
    (Always and a day)
    Always and a day
    we swore in common vow
    that tomorrow we would stay
    the same as now,
    the same as now.
    In every future verb
    we deny our own "Until";
    this the promise that we serve -
    we have time to kill:
    I will, I will,
    I will, I will,
    I will, I will
    always and a day.
    (Cretans always lie)
    It's impossible to trace
    these words in carbon paper trail        
    for just as Zeno's arrow flies the snake is eating its tail.
    And in contradictory style
    the soldier and the steer attend
    around the mark of the five hundred all in charge of a friend.
    "The Cretans always lie"
    claims the Cretan.
    The Cretans always lie.
    A kiss the gift from hell
    light, the poison pillow, dear...
    and as we gag on it translation smacks of something like
    "Cretans always lie"
    claims the Cretan;
    "Of Cretan stock am I,
    am I Cretan?"
    Why don't we hook this old short circuit to the value of Pi?
    "Cretans always lie"
    claims the Cretan;
    "Of Cretan stock am I,
    (so) am I Cretan?"
    And Zeno's arrow flies,
    through the ether.
    Come on...let's see how the paradox flies.
    (All Greek)
    Fried up the brain
    with rhetorical questions
    dictionary games
    and conundrums ear to ear.
    When we say what we think
    do we think what we're saying's
    missing a link,
    inconsistent in idea?
     (in internal stage whispers
     wordless the script
     getting lost in contradictory talk....)
    Losing the thread
            (in a set of stage whispers)
    "It's nothing"... (he said)
    If I meant that it would say it all.
    (Spoken, the lines are misshapen....)
    speaking my mind
    but the mind that thinks out loud's not thinking straight at all.
    All my ideas formed entirely without words
    speechlessly, you get the picture?
    ne, oxi, oxi, endax'
    hai, iie, iie, redact....
    All greek to me, all in double dutch phrases,
    cacophony of linguistic dismay,
    orotund talk and the sound of my voice is
    fractured and forced;
    I can't get out what I mean to say,
    parroted lines all misshapen...
    speaking my mind
    but the mind that thinks out loud is close to blown away.
    And when ideas come entirely without words
    their purity is unalloyed
    even to ourselves unspoken is unheard
    and so we try to give them voice
    but languages have all evolved to meet the needs
    of every individual culture
    so with every syntax that we press them to we see
    their essences adulterated...
    ne, oxi, oxi, endax'
    hai, iie, iie, redact....
    Call that a Conversation?
    Oh, spit it out, there's no way we'll see eye to eye -
    my simple truth is your warped confusion;
    as off different planets we spin eccentric jive.
    I don't remember what I said
    I don't think you do either.
    Slippery of  tongue though you claim my speech may be
    all of the words you've been putting in my mouth just flatter to deceive.
    I never said the half of that
    you're utterly mistaken
    call that a conversation?
    Yeah, you said it,
    all my meaning, quite misread it...
    this conversation let's forget it now.
    I can't believe what you just said
    call this a conversation?
    Let's call it quits,
    let's just say it's
    a measure of the distance between our worlds.
    I don't remember what I said,
    I don't think you do either;
    you make what you will of meaning -
    call that a conversation?
    More likely just the space between words
    when the meanings have all changed.
    (The Meanings Changed)
    From the first word that I said to the last 
    some strange echo remains
    imprinted in the walls
    recorded in the vaults
    we talked and tunneled through
    but the meanings have all changed.
    Because of all I said
    you began to regard me as strange
    until with some relief
    you suspended disbelief
    I tried to tell the truth
    but my meaning was all changed .
    I saved one final word
    to pay off this long sentence in spades
    but what I thought I said
    was patently misread.
    The spoken word
    is broken here
    and in between the two of us
    the meaning is all changed.
    (Gone ahead)
    We bite off our tongues
    while chewing the fat;
    though the fire in our lungs is celestial
    our delivery falls flat.
    Would a time come to be silent?
    Oh, we never spoke of that.
    We talked out of turn
    in the school of hard knocks;
    although willing to learn from experience
    it still comes as a shock
    when the time comes to be silent...
    one by one the jaws all drop.
    The voice is still clear in my head;
    it's the last word in monologue....
    close-up, interior, night.
    The voices alive in my head
    are all tongue-tied to silence now.
    It's the darkest of moods,
    it's the cruellest of jokes
    that this facility I used, once so fluent,
    is cut out at a stroke.
    And the time came to be silent
    as the core connection broke....
    absurd ineloquence,
    my own words on which I choke.
    Swallowing deep on the thread,
    so much I'm losing now,
    so many things left unsaid
    and the voice I've been using is
    gone ahead.
    (Power of Speech)
    Always we shout to be heard
    as though our voices could express
    the sense of sentences deferred
    and of lessons learned, 
    of storylines unfolding,
    of the truths of our innocence and shame,
    of life, the very breath that we are holding,
    of our very names.
    We shoot our mouths off in adventure,
    we ram the ammunition in the breach,
    blow up the flowering of sense
    with the power of speech.
    (If Language Explodes)
    And if language explodes
    in our faces like shrapnel
    all self-defence is blown away.
    In the end this reasoning's sound:
    how can we be found
    if we're lost for words?
    Oh, still in the search for tthewords....
    I've said my piece,
    I'll take my leave now,
    breathe not a word 
    of my disarray.
    All of the words have flown away....

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