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Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

 

I’m now going to dazzle myself with the pluperfect.

            —Jack Ridl

 

 

And isn’t it dazzling, the notion

that an action not only began in the past,

 

but was finished in the past, or,

as they say in Latin, it was perfect.

 

Not like these leaves, that began

in the past as green flags, but now

 

transform into gold flame. And we all know

what happens next. No, not like

 

the boy who once fit in my lap

and now looks me in the eye.

 

Not like the dream I had for my life

that changed before it could

 

be achieved. What really ends?

What do our cells not remember?

 

Even the dead are here in this room,

on the streets, in cafes. We carry

 

our history with us everywhere

we go, and it wriggles out of its

 

perfect cage and dances through the ending,

though we thought we’d shut the curtain,

 

though the director has long since yelled “cut,”

though the audience has already left,

 

see, here it is, even now, progressive

and as present as these cut sunflowers,

 

spilling their pollen all over the table,

hardening their seeds into future gold.

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Before I press send, I edit the last sentence so the adverb doesn’t split the infinitive—not that I care for grammar, just that it feels good today to have one small thing I know how to fix.

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Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless hesitating, noncommittal language. Use the word not as a means of denial or in antithesis, never as a means of evasion.

            —Elements of Style, Strunk & White

 

 

It would be less preferred

to say of the baby quail

that “It did not survive”

when the falcon

went hunting

along the side of the cliff.

Better, say the experts,

to make definite assertions,

“It died.”

It’s rule twelve:

“Put statements

in positive form.”

But what to say

of the inner fight,

how the soul cheers

for the falcon in flight—

all grace and ferocity,

precision, might.

While the heart

can’t help but cheer

for that bumbling chick

brown-striped, blameless,

chirp and slip.

It’s not that the heart

is trying to evade,

not trying to lie,

it just wants

to build a small hope

for us all with the word survive

something to soften the truth—

all things die.

 

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