But there were some good ideas knocking around,
then, before the first word was spoken.



Two Dominican Sisters, Srs. Mary Magdalen O'Farrell
and Mary Vincent Martin returned from France
with a sign dictionary and a number of teaching texts, 1846
Fr. John Burke, Vincentian priest,
Englished these resources, in addition making signs
"softer and more feminine" for the girls
and "bolder and more masculine" for the boys.

Acosh, sacho, ohacs.

I get up early in the morning.
I wash my face and my hands.
I put my clothes on.

Casoh, hasoc.

St. Mary's School for Deaf Girls,
St. Joseph's School for Deaf Boys,
both residential, only hundreds of yards apart,
yet the lack of opportunity for contact between them
led to separate "men's signs" and "women's signs".
The difference between these became so great
that a belief arose among the girls
that another system had been brought from America for the boys.

Hosca, casho, scoha.


Start with radial strands, then go
alternately anticlockwise up and clockwise down
for four circumspins
then anticlockwise all the way to the centre
and home, sixty thousand individual movements later.
Ocsha, sacoh.
If moved before the end
will continue the web where it left off
however useless either result.

Günz, Mindel, Riss, Würm.

1946. Signing was no longer permitted
in the Girls' School (1956 in the Boys')
as oral methods became policy.

Why learn a sign when they might learn a word
question mark.

At the same time, the City of London was subsisting
on time lapse movies of William's Bon Chretiens
(seed to fruit in sixteen seconds)
lying hour upon hour in a poky flat
waiting for just the right time
being horribly aged by the wrong.

Write down the six combinations which begin with "CH".
Then swap the "H" with the third, fourth and fifth letter,
in turn, completing those twenty four which begin with "C".

Central doctrines:
That true language is lingual;
that one form of expression excludes another;
that failure is due to lack of effort.

Socha, hacos, ahsoc.

Out of the corners of our eyes we could see
a group pulling a plug of ice
hundreds of feet long out of the ground
trying to find out if the weather would hold.

Releasers of behaviour.

Transpose the "C" with each of the other four letters in turn
for the full list of one hundred and twenty.

Today ,
fifty years later,
those still without language at the age of ten
are classified as being multiply handicapped
and transferred to a signing unit.
Ask them what it's like to have no native language.

Use your voice.

I will get up early in the morning.
I will wash my face and my hands.
I will put my clothes on.

Yes is open, two handed,
contact of horizontal and vertical.
No is a small, solitary, upright bird, closing.

Sohac, hasco, shoca.

In the omniscient landscape
every event was plotted as a point
all the lines between them exposed
every action every thought knitted into one cloth.

Back at the party, not even bothering to check the price,
we aimed lower, attempting to construe
what it was that underpinned each gesture,
assuming expression was an imperative,
even its evasion a loop in the autograph.

Shaco, cohas, ohasc.

Remove seat cushion,
embrace, grasping loops with hands, float.

Since love is a gift,
you cannot always choose what you get.
And, since no purchase is required,
no responsibility is accepted for any disappointment.

At that height, as if time had slowed,
I could feel my eardrum
vibrating like a puddle in the rain,
and a sickening feeling as I realised
that my car was not insured
for any loss or damage directly or indirectly
due to
sahco, hsoca, oshac.

How much of us have they translated?
One or two pages of fragments.
Good. But what progress?
They think much of it is nonsense and the rest a sealed book.

Acsho, scaho.

Deep signing is never used in front of hearing people.

I washed my face and my hands.

Total Communication,
the simultaneous use of speech and sign,
although in practice one atrophies
at the expense of the other.

Home is an array of data arising out of
membranes, pressure, chemo- and light sensors
and, even more so, out of post-sensual processing.
But I am a fragment of a shadow
cast by the coherence of energies
necessary to co-ordinate a colony of six trillion cells.

How do they even walk?
if not by a recursive sequence of points of collapse

I wish I had put my clothes on.


The unemployment rate among deaf people is 91%
Almost half of deaf school leavers have failed
to attain a reading age of nine years (1970ís).

A sealed book.


Do or don't judge a city by its size, for
Example, this street, at one stage not even cobbled, hails
Originally from the sea, suggesting a
Xerox of some blue-green algae or perhaps
Yggdrassil apparently expanding as it
Reaches back into history, but
Intertwining, fusing, flexing against,
Bumping into the funnelled walls
Overhanging the diminishing labour pool.
No one could have foreseen how
Unbridled the maze of little squares,
Courtyards and streets would become.
Later additions are generally believed to
Enhance its fundamental character.
In any case, its persistence from ancient times,
Changed of course, but still very much alive,
And in constant use, attracting newcomers everyday,
Can be seen as a Swiss Army Knife of History,
Incorporating buzz words from every epoch,
Dated or still current.

Isn't it about time
you unfractured your accent
with ideas it was intended to pronounce?

I felt a forest under my skin.

Sahoc, ocahs, csoah.

Use your voice.



© Randolph Healy