Punctuation

By Edward Butscher

When computers democratized

capitals and i-pods abridged words

themselves, deathless prose died

a billion deaths, tiny as pricks

in a condom—and no less perilous

 

Doomed to knowledge of erasure

at an early age by sudden shifts

of scenery and regal personae

(mother, father, nurturing aunts),

which meant predicating subjects

into objects at some felt remove

(brutal as brackets) from a child’s

steeple-high Emersonian eye,

 

the boy platformed castles at his

two Catholic elementary schools

from the sentences diagrammed

with an obsessive cardinal joy,

raising praised context and conduct

ramps under the weight of Latin’s

imported stage directions.

 

After college degrees and teaching

confirmed its value, a semi-colon’s

dragnet sweep had the raft appeal

of rescuing second and third ideas

from history’s enormous annals,

of elaborating revisions and subtle

eddies into carpets of The Master

and transfigured dream lovers.

 

Simon the Poet harpoons his colons

at the other side of the great divide

between conscious and unconscious

space, releasing fresh oxygen back

into the vacuum separating equals,

a mind expanding in a fecund, if

uneasy, way, unearthing old levels

of lore below remorseless stones.

 

But periods remain the most satisfying

to execute, reaffirming a sentence’s

existence at the acme of completeness

even as it concludes, like a Hemingway

story, on death’s implacable sword,

and it is difficult not to love them, no

matter what is obliterated, a sequence

of cats and dogs, whom I would have

saved if I could, like a jaded Casanova,

or the boyhood friends who never

said goodbye in words or a lost shout.

 

The end, in the end, is all there is.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.


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