Before Words

“writing may exit the cage but the cage remains and grows”
–Fady Joudah, “After No Language”

On boards punched with holes, blue paint outlined a boat.
I threaded a blue string and laced my first sentence.

Before words, I relied on color.
Blocks and clay and color forms.

In memory, the hours before words are silent.
No babbling or humming, just tending color with quiet hands.

I was a late speaker. Others named my desires:


Before words, it seemed possible that I might return to a womb
still warm and heaped like a half-zipped sleeping bag.

But eventually I would utter
and my mother would record my first word.

No one knew that lakes and caves and a single moon
would never satisfy.

I would look, instead, to dying stars.
In one, out the next with my yellow laces.

Diane LeBlanc is a writer, teacher, and book artist with roots in Vermont, Wyoming, and Minnesota. Published work includes The Feast Delayed (Terrapin Books, 2021), four poetry chapbooks, and numerous poems and essays. Diane is a holistic life coach with emphasis in creativity practice. She teaches at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Read more at

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