English is the shiniest hammer
I own, but it’s also
the only thing in my toolbox.

I use it all the time,
but there is so much
it cannot do.
– from “Mama Saba asks,”



  1. the principal method of human communication, consisting of words used in a structured and conventional way and conveyed by speech, writing, or gesture
  2. a system of communication used by a particular country or community.

Language only has a definition because at some point in time someone said “this is called language”. The Oxford English Dictionary is a compilation of language by date of first known use. We have the concept of spelling because it was made the gold standard by Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster. We’ve been told that letters make these sounds and when put together mean these concepts. And we try to believe it.

But Language is pliable. It is meant to be changed within a community, broadened by culture, experienced by those who can feel the way the word is spelled, and watch the meaning of each syllable change with the softness of tone. What Rudy Francisco has done in I’ll Fly Away (Button Poetry) is to build a language where one did not exist. We place letters in front of letters to create new emotions, new meanings. It’s guterall. These are new words needed in these new times to help coalesce these ancient feelings.

At times, Language, like Life, like Music, like our tongues, can be finicky. At times it needs to be code switched, erased, restructured, reconnected to what it should have meant in the first place. So, “Rudy, thank you for not giving up on us.” Thank you for reminding us that even if Language doesn’t make sense, it may still define you.

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