Magic Words by after Nalungiaq: Reading and Meditation

August 15, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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Magic Words, after Nalungiaq (an Inuit poem, translated by Edward Field)


I’ve always wondered what my dog or my horse (or even my cat, years ago) might say to me. My language to them is so faltering, and faulty. To speak the same language is to begin to bridge the gap of understanding. But to become an animal, so see the world from the dog’s or horse’s point of view would be to enter into, become one with, nature in a different way. In the mystical time of Inuit myth, words are magical and the human mind has mysterious powers. What if all we had to do is speak a word and what we wanted would happen? The consequences would be strange indeed. And I’m drawn to reflect—what would the world look like if all the words I speak to myself, under my breath, in moments of doubt, frustration or despair…what would the world look like if those words suddenly came alive? We should be glad the world is not magical in this way. We should guard against the magic that our words do have. Sometimes the animals are wise in their silence.

Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado

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