For a long time, I’ve been considering how to use the idea of ventriloquism in my work. When I write with others, there is somebody throwing their voice. Unfortunately, this means somebody has to be the dummy, and that’s probably going to be me.

When I learned that ventriloquism literally meant “belly speaking,” I started to think about what other parts of the body could speak. Pedoquism: hand speaking. Coroquism: heart speaking. Mensoquism: mind speaking. Otoquism: ear speaking. Hematoquism: blood speaking.

All of these are ways of speaking (except, perhaps, the ear, though listening could be considered part of speaking). Each coinage expresses an undeveloped exploration.

I like to explore the various roots of my name, Pearl, which is interestingly related to Margaret and therefore Daisy. One etymological theory connects it with purity, another with pear-shape. Knowing what a pearl is and how it is made, I like to think there is a piece of grit at the heart of the luster, and both are necessary. I’ve also compared a pearl to a cancerous tumor, the body’s defenses gone overboard. That’s a little less glamorous though potentially more disruptive as an image. Of course, mucous is also a bodily defense, and like the layers of nacre over sand, it is shiny.

Sometimes I go too far in extending a metaphor. I’ve been encouraged to exploit my name for branding purposes, you know, “Pearl of Wisdom” or “Priceless Pearl,” but I find that in my work I really want to dig down to the grit. And that would destroy the gemstone.

Pearl also designates 5-point type, which as my eyes age I consider an implement of torture.

My mother is luminescent. She is the flame moths hover around: appealing and risky.

My father chose my name. He told my mother, sometime while they were teenagers, that he was going to have a daughter named Pearl, which had been his mother’s name. For some reason, she didn’t run screaming in the opposite direction, which I could attribute either to a romantic nature or to teenage idealism. In any case, it took ten years for them to run in opposite directions, and by then, the ideals were shattered, no matter how perfectly I might have turned out.

The metaphor I’m exploring now in my work is the megaphone. I love the idea of the human PA system from the Occupy Movement, like a bucket brigade of voices. When I write with other people, it is not my job to alter (so I’m not a microphone) except in volume. To amplify so that others may hear.

Seeking the right metaphor, or even the right word, is a little bit like playing the accordion: You expand and contract, letting out sounds in both directions. Or is it more like a bellows: a great indrawing of breath in order to let it out again, fanning the flames?

I could go on like this all day. Sometimes I do.

I just want to be outstanding in my field.