A doctor marries a prostitute
List of the essential words within most languages, devised by the linguist Morris Swadesh:
Long small woman man bird dog louse tree seed leaf root bark skin meat blood bone fat fire egg horn tail father fish hair head ear eye fingernail nose mouth tooth tongue foot knee hand belly neck breast heart liver drink eat bite see hear know die kill swim fly walk come lie sit stand give say sun moon star water rain stone sand earth cloud smoke ashes burn road mountain red green yellow white black night warm cold full new good round dry name
(each word is used once in the two versions of the same story)
The doctor's story
The woman barks, and bites his giving hand. As his neck reddens, he fishes for the sun in his heart. He knows. It was a seed, clouded, in her belly. A dryness, in blackness, like meat. Flying from her tongue is his name, as it is coming to his skin like fire.
A warm egg, white. Bleeding yellow. Eaten but not seen. The night is laying, tail in its mouth, in his two full eyes.
He walks through the leaves, the dogs, the round-eyed men and the birds. He is burning the road to his mountain. Who was he to ‘nose out’ which was the sleep that could kill? Which, that would rain on her ashes and stones, to be drunk by the roots in her sand?
But to kneel on her green earth. To say, this one is the moon, and this one is swimming in the cold water.
‘I hear,’ (her fingernails! her teeth!) ‘that I all but died’.
She is sitting. Her hair, feathery and cold. His mouth to a horn that is new and good.
.Drawing his head, so that his ear is at her breast. In her liver, the feet of a fat louse.
The prostitute's story
She sits through the night, naming the dogs, the red-eyed men walking and the birds. Smoking out her heart, until it is as dry as a seed or a feather.
Her white neck gives the drink to her belly and it clouds there, warmly. She is dreaming of fish and eggs to eat. Full and new, the long sun is burning the fat off the roads.
A round hand, laying on her knee. Then to green and to yellow, to see and to hear and to kill the heart as it flies, because from the stars come rain.
But up against a tree, with his tongue and teeth, swimming.
Leaf and bone. Stone and bark and sand. As he had said, he had come. He is a mountain. The water. The moon. How was she to die, in this good skin?
His fingernails rooting out head lice. Blood in her hair. Bitten as she sleeps. He noses out the fire of meat, down there. Horns and a tail. Ashes in her liver. Known, she can’t stand on her feet.