Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why we Speak English

Why We Speak English
by Lynn PedersenTheories of Rain)

Because when you say cup and spoon
your mouth moves the same way as your grandfather's
and his grandfather's before him.
It's Newton's first law: A person in motion
tends to stay in motion with the same speed
and direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force—
scarcity or greed.

Is there a word for greed in every language?
Because the ear first hearddyes furs pepper ginger tobacco cotton timber
silk freedom horizon
and the tongue wanted to taste all these fine things.
And when my son asks why his father speaks Danish
and he and I speak English and Carlos—at kindergarten—speaks Portuguese:

because Denmark is and has always been.
Our ancestors tracked north and Carlos'
tracked south. What's left in their wake
is language.

Because it comes down to want, to latitude and longitude as ways to measure
desire, invisible mover of ships—
great clockwise gyre of water in the sea—
like some amusement park ride where boats seem to sail
but run on tracks under the water.

Because to change course now would be like divertingthe Arno,
this centuries-long rut we've dug ourselves
into, and how would it be to wake up one morning
with bird oiseau or another word entirely?

"Why We Speak English" by Lynn Pedersen, from Theories of Rain. © Main Street Rag, 2009.