Yale writing faculty gave a joint reading the other night, me and poets Louise Gluck, J.D. McClatchy, John Hollander, essayist Anne Fadiman, and nature writer Fred Strebeigh. Hollander read a wonderful poem about being stung by a bee on the subway. McClatchy read one called Er -- he said he is intrigued by non-words we use that have specific but not semantic meanings. The poem was abut hesitation -- a lover's hesitation in saying that he will leave, and how the other leaves him in the midst of the hesitating; and then a section about Er, a character in a dialogue of Plato who comes back from the dead, and then a piece about a bird who is a person come back from the dead and observes lovers in their hesitations: a real tour de force.
Non-words -- my friend Lance and I considered what are the most chilling words in the language. He had settled on a phrase -- "hairline crack" -- but then we both voted as winner one that isn't a word at all: "Uh-oh." Pilot at the controls, doctor examining the X-ray, man at the head of the group rounding the corner ahead: Uh-oh.