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Hearts and Letters


Hearts and Letters

Tom Sturch


Here's a game for wordophiles where earth, breath and sheet are three words you can spell with the letters in the word heartbeats. Setter, rate, and bra are three more. Steep, if your rules let the “b” swing around. Strafe if you let one “t” grow a canopy. Tree is there. There, too. And three. And others spring from the page if you string multiples:


Eats, hear, shear. A coined homonym for shirt with a meaning found only in the Urban Dictionary and with which you'd score zero points in Scrabble.

There are the easy ones. The three-letter words that you write madly down during the first ten seconds of a game of Boggle: bet, set, hat, rat, bat, sat, see, sea, tea, ten. Then four letters: seer, sear, seat, teat, heat. And five: beast, sheet, tease . . . and then your flow is interrupted wondering if shat might be the past tense... – oh, write it down anyway you tell yourself, your momentum flattened on that wall of self-doubt that you so easily construct. Shit.

And in idle musing we might make sentences. Ha, a beret! That hatter be brash! With French flair and an Irish brogue, no less. Or, a story: Aether. Earthset. A theater of beasts and trees.Bats. Hares. A steer. Bears. Rats. Bees. Betas. Tetras. Aster. Tares. Then a taste.Beset with threat the betters are bare, base, and start east.There are tears.Hate. Berate and beat.A reset, and rest.

You may begin to suspect I'm cheating with a computer anagram maker. With only seven unique letters one might suspect the possibilities are limited. But, this anagram finder found 1385 anagrams using all the letters in every solution. Aha, there! you say. Alright, you caught me.

However, not included in the computer's list are girls named Heather, Tara, Esther and Bette. Eartha Kit's first name is here. Boys named Abe, Bert, Bart, Bret, and Steb. They stare and share, hearts abreast and tether. There be heat! There be brats and eaters! The story continues.

You may recall that our DNA is made up of combinations of only four nucleotides abbreviated A, C, G, and T, and that they spell out all the billions of particulars of material life. I was briefing The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction by Henry T. Greely and this paragraph caught my attention:

And now we come to perhaps the strangest fact about the human genome and the genomes of other complicated living things. The vast majority of each genome does not appear to do anything. DNA may seem like a finely engineered machine, but, in fact, it is more like your grandmother's attic, with occasional treasures half-hidden in the mass of useless clutter.

Shelves of unread books. Strange words yet unspoken. A closet of left-over letters there for us to arrange alongside the bright emergent meanings just cresting our darkened windows. And it's in this very assertion that I begin to disbelieve his title and others like it that suspect the worst in us. That we'd ever stop looking, stop finding, stop creating. There's hope in the strangest facts because the human imagination will always fool around in vestigial stuff and make wonderful things. The beat goes on.