We need language that is living
creature with a body of its own—
jellyfish, worms, fruit flies,
squirrel monkeys, chimpanzees,
people, rats, scrub jays—put together
along natural joints. Try not to splinter
any part, as a bad butcher might.
The looking, licking, smelling animals,
the friendly, fumbling beasts, they lie
down, quarrel, snort of right-hand
madness, weaving insanity
into prophecy, language that never
thought of madness as worthy
of blame, to be ashamed of.
This human brain is a mix
of quick and dirty colorless green
ideas that sleep furiously, shrinkage
of mental mud, lagoon of pigment in
a prison-house of language, a place
that swallows boundaries. We must
return to dust or rust, but poetry
is always a dying language, never
dead: a bull among the stars, cicadas
born to burst into song until it is time
to die, a jumble of limbs, white bloodshot
eyes, a boy in a windowless room with
an earthen floor that repeats his name, imitates
birdsong, wants to be a horseman like his father.
- Fitch, W. Tecumseh. The Evolution of Language. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
- Smithson, Robert. “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects,” in Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, ed. Jack Flam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
- Plato. Phaedrus. Translated by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1995.
- Berryman, John. John Berryman: Selected Poems, ed. Kevin Young. New York: Library of America, 2004.
- Chomsky, Noam. Syntactic Structures. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2002.
- Jameson, Fredric. The Prison-House of Language. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Heather Holland Duncan
is an Integrated Studies student at Utah Valley University, studying English literature, anthropology, and creative writing. Her chapbook, Mastering the Art of Joy, was recently published by NFSPS as winner of the Edna Meudt Memorial Award. Her poems have also been published in Encore, Touchstones, and Weeds.