How to Swear

Statement about poem:  The airwaves are filled with harsh words. I find myself okay with being a nasty woman. Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet with two collections in print: Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press, 2016) and Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Website:

How to Swear

Many targets for swearing roam this collapsing world. Fouled places. Obscene weapons. Renegades with orange hair.

Any predictable, capricious or even seductive god would damn them. Damn—all-purpose recrimination stocked like baking powder and salt. The only French swear word I know after five years studying this romance language is merde, no relation to murder, more recall of a run-over stink of skunk.

When you abandon your broken-down sedan to the crusher, kick the flat tire. Wish for the lover who deserts you to itch eternally. Do not go commonplace into today’s culture of curse.

The voiceless have choices in this matter—spray paint, fist shake, march en masse, and flatulence. Silence is a creative option under the competition of talk shows, buzz saws, leaf blowers, tire whine, and monologues from dogs trapped on back porches. Merde under its breath.

Grief’s varietal vocabulary includes elephants who boom over their dead. Whales under sea-roads. A spotted owl’s hup hoo hoo. The eloquence of the crow. Diversity invites mimicry.

Loud gets attention. Newborns knows this, but too-long stillness in a crib also brings tenders running.

Some say climate change is a deserved curse. Changing winds bring tornadoes that lift roofs and leave the family Bible open on the kitchen table or rend the Bible and leave the TV guide on the Tibetan green-silk carpet.

After one masters swearing or demeaning (Cyrano’s monologue after the viscount), the second lesson—which requires more finesse and as much sincerity—is blessing.

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