Monday, October 6, 2008

Our Verbal Progress

I overheard a conversation between two students today. One was talking about how her cat was misbehaving, and the other was complaining about how much her dog licked her. The cat-person said, "I don't like dog-tongues. In fact, I find all tongues disgusting." I thought this was a remarkable statement, bold and fascinating.

I'm still pondering what to do with the statement, poetically or otherwise.

In the meantime, I've been thinking of "tongue" in the sense of language ("she speaks several tongues"), and that isn't a bad if old-fashioned synecdoche (if that's what it is; I often conflate metonymy and synecdoche), for although much more than the tongue is involved in speaking, the tongue is pretty crucial.

Our Verbal Progress

Before we were born,
we lived theoretically in the infinitive,
to live. Once incarnated,
we were conjugated, about
nine months after a conjugal
interaction. Conjugated:
I live, you live, he, she, it lives.

After we lived for a while,
we "used to go," "were thinking
of falling in love," "had been planning
to travel to Athens," "had once been
a highly regarded cello player,"
and so on.

Too soon we shall have used up
all occasions for needing the future
tense and shall rely on the past
tenses almost exclusively. Soon
thereafter, we will, being dead,
not require verbs, nor even pre-
positions. The infinitive to die
will house us foreover in our
re-unconjugated state, where
words spoken by tongues
shall not reach us, where we shall
exist in a state of supreme listening.

Hans Ostrom Copyright 2008
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