language, culture and style…

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called December 7th “a date which will live in infamy,” because it was on this day in 1941 that Japanese planes attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor. More than 2,300 Americans died in the attack, and the United States joined World War II, which it had stayed out of the war for more than two years, adhering to its policy of neutrality in Europe’s affairs.


If Only Life Were Like Language

by Paul Hostovsky


If Only Life Were Like Language

and all the natural resources like words,

then the world would be

an unambiguously better place.

Because when you use a word

like apocalypse, say, it doesn’t then follow

that there is one less apocalypse to go around––

there are still an infinite number of apocalypses,

more than enough for everyone. And the more

people who use a language the more

the language grows rich and strong

and resourceful and ramifying

with new and far-out ways of saying things,

not to mention all the lexical borrowings that go on,

the exotic words and phrases, and the names––

names of dinosaurs and flowers

and racehorses and hurricanes––

and the lists, praise be to God for the lists!

Which is just the opposite of the world

with its dying rivers and dwindling resources

and endangered species list.

With words you can make stuff up out of nothing

which is more than you can say

for physics or chemistry or corn. Earth’s

the right place for language. I don’t know where

else you could invent an imaginary escape hatch

up and out of a dying world,

and take a little of the world with you in your pockets

like the jingling coins of a realm,

or like the crepitating bits and pieces

of a beautiful intact dead language

for sprinkling over the smart lunch conversation

in the next.

“If Only Life Were Like Language” by Paul Hostovsky from Is That What That Is. FutureCycle Press © 2017.

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