Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Of! Dammit! Of! Of!

by Dean Blehert

The trick of much poetry
is to boobytrap the innocent logic of syntax
with nonsense - not a stream of gibberish like
"bubble rats sour oyster foul snot pits
blood summer", but "A bubble of rats bursts
the sour oyster of our foul snot
in deepest pits of blood summer" or "the calculus
of winter" or "in the frayed easy chairs of
incontinent autumn" or "a calculus of rats
bursts the snot moon of..." (or even "...snots
the burst moon of...") - it MUST make sense,
because the power of syntax (A [noun] of [plural noun]
[verb]s the [adj.] [noun] of our [adj.] [noun]...)
carries it along, as heedless of its cargo
as a speeding train, which, whether carrying
vacationers, businessmen, potatoes or corpses,
gets where it's going. Not much wrong
with this: millennia of sheer plod cut
these logical grooves into our language, dry beds
for flow of even gibberish. Why NOT use them
to make us know bubbles of rats, the bursting
of sour oysters, etc.? We read such lines
as if blindfolded and asked to touch
whatever is put before us. Logical syntax
is our inviter's confident glibness
that lures us to plunge our hands into the bowl
of spaghetti, worms or bleeding guts, at worst
an adventure. I lament only the sapping
of syntax, the cheapened status of sentence
position, the dulling edges of our fine all-purpose
diamond-tipped tools: Of, the, a, our,
in, to .... Honed delicate tools should
not be used to slice up old cardboard. Syntax
is a miracle of complex agreement.
If we waste it - too often treat the ancient
aristocracy of articles, prepositions,
pronouns and conjunctions as mere pimps
for the perverse rompings of jaded, ill-
associated, ostentatious, nouveau riche words
like bubble, sour and calculus - then the
little words that bear it all upon their
shoulders will sicken from the shame of it,
look for ways to lighten their load by
cheating us, lose meaning - and then,
without our razor-edged the , our handy-dandy
slicer/masher/ricer/dicer of , our whole
tool chest full of elaborately defined
and compartmented if, to, and, on, as -
O how shall we talk to one another!

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