Sunday, 7 February 2010


Came across the word deliquesce recently and am taken with it. Smitten. How many times I've said it, just to hear the sound of it running like a stream in my head.

I must have heard it before but never really took notice.  It means 'to become liquid, to melt away' (if, like me, it's trickled past you unobserved) and is one of the most onomatopoeic words I've ever come across.  It's a word that, when spoken, sounds as if it's turning to liquid and melting away.  It puts me in mind of water, streams, the ebbing of emotions.

I came across it in a wonderful poem called Talking to Ourselves by  Pulitzer prize winner Philip Schultz, which was featured in The Writer's Almanac on January 18th, this year (all details here).

He talks of listening, as an elderly neighbour mourns the loss of his wife, to:
his longing reach across the darkness with / each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.

And of how his father would talk to himself when his vending machine business was failing:
his lips / silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.

It's a powerful poem and I've just ordered the anthology, Failure, in which it appears, so may be talking more about Philip Schultz in future.

(The photo was taken in Colby Woodland Gardens,  near Amroth, Carmerthenshire, UK, when we were there last June ... and in checking those details I found a photo almost exactly the same at the National Trust Colby Garden website, but this pic is mine!)



Jane Turley said...

Mmmm..that is a nice word.

Almost as nice as delicatessen:)

SWUBIRD said...


A beautiful post. You are the pro. I never heard of deliquesce either. Thanks for sharing.

Happy trails.

Paul said...

Thanks, Jane and Swubird. It is a delicious word.