by Li-Young Lee
In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose
persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
all of it, to the heart. …
Precision is choosing the right word for the right spot in a sentence, so that it will nudge gently against its neighbors and create so much more than a word, alone, can. Writing should be thought of as creating music, a cacophony when the message is vibrant and vicious; a melody of Mozart’s night music when the owls call, each to each; a drum beat of orders that, against which, staccato has nothing. Take your sounds, one by one, out of your toolbox – you have assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, cacophony, dissonance – and arrange the words to deliver your message. Like gently taking up a paintbrush, your fingers on the keyboard can pull at a heart, crash into a mind, create a sensation of softness or a torrent of anger. All up to you, once you decide that precision drives a message, and a message turns the world.