BY THE WORD by Barbara Ruth I have come to live by the word the holiness of word itself, the spoken, written word as it appears and as you hear your ear to my tongue a stream of intent. Last summer I went to the bottom of the world without a map and with too many words. I needed to make my way, but it was such a strange underworld. It pulled me down to a place I could hear no birds. Where words themselves blurred in my eyes, lost their meaning, wavered, fell, in the stale conditioned air. Because I could not summon my own words true and tight enough to hold my water others named my state. They charted me, distorted the words I knew threw new ones at me. I was taken unarmored and naked. I had no defense from them. They stuck. And so I came to be. Almost, I came to be what they called me. But I had need of myself. I needed the self who remembers the bliss and makes the words for it. I pledged my allegiance to the team of survival and now, because of who I lived to become I do. I make the words for it. It's why I came here in the first place. After all.