Language Lesson 1976
When Americans say a man
takes liberties, they mean
he’s gone too far. In Philadelphia today I saw
a kid on a leash look mom-ward
and announce his fondest wish: one
bicentennial burger, hold
the relish. Hold is forget,
On the courts of Philadelphia
the rich prepare
to serve, to fault. The language is a game as well,
in which love can mean nothing,
doubletalk mean lie. I’m saying
doubletalk with me. I’m saying
go so far the customs are untold.
Make nothing without words,
and let me be
the one you never hold.
While we’re doing poems that dabble playfully in the possibilities of language, I thought I’d throw in this Heather McHugh poem (originally from A World of Difference, since republished in Hinge and Sign) which takes a few cleverly observed idiosyncracies of the language, and pushes them in delightful and unexpected directions.
Oh, and don’t miss the bell!