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