Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

A Grammar of Loss – for Leila

In poem on October 10, 2010 at 1:05 am

“Death is a black camel, which kneels at the gates of all.”
-Abd al-Qadir, Algerian military & political leader and poet, 1807-1883

I. Use of the Past Tense

It is surprisingly difficult
to begin to use the simple past
(never simple) or past perfect
(far from): like the quickly-
corrected stumbles we make
in a foreign tongue,
embarrassing ourselves; but here
not only grammar but heart
resists, yearning for the present
indicative, the continued present,
the present of ongoing action
which leads to the future.

II. Synonym

When the friend has gone,
we tend to say, “She has passed,”
“He has gone on,” “Dearly departed,”
“We have lost him,” avoiding
the straightforward reference
to death.

III. Case

In some languages each noun
possesses a case, such as ablative
or genitive, and in this case the case
would be accusative; but whom
to accuse?

IV. Number

The verb and the noun
must conform, like to like;
but what is the correct number
of loss?

V. Dangling Participle

Leaving so much hanging, those who
still live, the conversations which seem
to continue, the unasked and unanswered
questions . . .

VI. Diagrammed Sentences

I | have lost | you
| \forever

You | are lost
| \to \forever

VII. Conjunction

Conjunctions show relationship.
What has been joined
may then be sundered.

VIII. Subjunctive Mode

Use of the subjunctive expresses
an idea as desirable, supposable,
conditional: Would that she were alive.
If only it were to turn out differently.
I wish she were here with us.

IX. Indefinite Relative Pronoun

Whatever happened had to happen.
Whichever treatment she sought
was inadequate. Whoever could
have believed it would end
like this?

–Lisa Rappoport