"Those who know do not speak," Lao Tzu said. "Those who speak do not know."
"We're idiots, babe," Bob Dylan said. "It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves."
"Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech," the First Amendment said, "or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble."
"Freedom of speech," Ice-T said. "Just watch what you say."
"If you can't say anything nice," my mother said, "don't say anything at all."
Shit goddamn, I said to myself.
"In the beginning was the Word," John said, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
"We know little that is certain about words," Virginia Woolf said, "but this we do know — words never make anything that is useful; and words are the only things that tell the truth and nothing but the truth."
"The truth is more important than the facts," Frank Lloyd Wright said.
"Facts are stubborn things," John Adams said.
"Facts are stupid things," Ronald Reagan said.
"It really doesn't matter," Donald Trump said, "as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass."
"The ass is the face of the soul of sex," Charles Bukowski said.
"Love me tender," Elvis said, "Love me sweet."
"You don't know what love is," Billie Holiday said.
"Elvis was a hero to most," Chuck D said, "but he never meant shit to me."
"Speak softly," Teddy Roosevelt said. "And carry a big stick."
"Sticks and stones will break your bones," my mother said. "But words will never hurt you."
"My bones?" I said.
"Your poor huddled masses," Lou Reed said, "let's club 'em to death."
"Patriotism means to stand by the country," Teddy Roosevelt said.
"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," Samuel Johnson said.
"Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings," Bob Dylan said. "Steal a little and they'll throw you in jail — steal a lot and they'll make you king."
"Pussycat, pussy cat, where have you been?" Mother Goose said.
"I've been to London to visit the queen."
"Pussycat, pussycat, what did you there?"
"You can do anything," Donald Trump said. "Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything."
"I frightened a little mouse under the chair," Pussycat said.
"Children should be seen," my mother said. "Not heard."
Children should be shit goddamn, I said in my head.
"Your silence will not protect you," Audre Lorde said.
"Fire!" I said.
"Don't you shout fire!" my mother said.
"Father forgive them," Jesus said. "They know not what they do."
"Do the do," Howlin' Wolf said.
"Do not go gentle," Dylan Thomas said.
"Do unto others," Jesus said.
"Wise men at their end know dark is right," Dylan Thomas said.
"I have a dream," Martin Luther King, Jr. said.
"Dreaming is free," Debbie Harry said.
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams," Eleanor Roosevelt said.
"I have a dream," Martin Luther King said, "that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed."
"I dreamt I was a butterfly," Chuang Tzu said.
"No one wants to hear what you dreamt about," Doug Martsch said, "unless you dreamt about them."
"Now I do not know," Chuang Tzu said, "whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I'm a man."
"Heaven," Frank Sinatra said. "I'm in heaven."
"Go to heaven for the climate," Mark Twain said, "hell for the company."
"Hell is other people," Sartre said.
"You're an icicle," Elliott Smith said. "You're a tongueless talker."
"We hold these truths to be self-evident," the Declaration of Independence said, "that all men are created equal."
"What'd I say about mouthy?" Jeff Jebeau said.
Then he punched me in the face.
"That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," the Declaration of Independence said.
"I don't want no peace," Peter Tosh said. "I need equal rights."
"You need coolin'," Robert Plant said.
"That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," the Declaration of Independence said.
"Hang the last king," Diderot said, "by the guts of the last priest."
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends," the Declaration of Independence said, "it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it."
"I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword," Mother Jones said. "I will tell the truth wherever I please."
"Will you please be quiet, please?" Raymond Carver said.
"We here highly resolve," Abraham Lincoln said, "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
"Lying is done with words," Adrienne Rich said. "And also with silence."
"Fire," my neighbor Connie said.
"I will make my words in thy mouth fire," the Bible said.
"Fire," my neighbor Mosel said.
"Don't fire," someone at Bunker Hill said, "until you see the whites of their eyes."
"Fire," we all started to say at once.
"A burning ring of fire," Johnny Cash said.
"But he meant love," my mother said.
We knew what he meant.
Words could be fire and fire could be fire. And fire could be love.
We cleared our throats to sing. ♦