After, about, above, across, among—
around the table, bent upon cognition
just by rote, she paces with a long
       list of prepositions:

A catalogue of locus and direction,
poky words so insignificant
you don’t identify them by inspection
       but mnemonic chant.

What’s a preposition? If I ask,
she rolls her eyes and drops the book and frowns
into the mirror (there’s her proper task):
       “It’s, like, before a noun.”

Are girls—or kitchen tables—absolute?
Although they ought to easily exist
without the donkey-words that constitute
       her stupid little list,

where would the table be without the on
that lets it touch the cool linoleum?
And what about the clever girl who cons
       the word list? She’d become

irrelevant to everyone. Apart
from words for ways that things are relative
to other things, she’ll have to learn by heart
       how what she can’t perceive

dim as electrons—what’s beneath, beyond
her, asinine as prepositions—tethers
verbs and nouns and pretty flesh and bonds
       the actual together.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 20 Number 5, on page 38
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