I saw a bear driving down the road this morning

I’ve been thinking about syntax, a word derived from the Greek “together + arrange,” itself an interesting syntax. So much power in the order of things. The images on a totem pole not only themselves have meaning, but their order on the pole and their juxtaposition with other images also has meaning, so a totem pole has syntax. And syntax is not just a linear project, but something more like an electron cloud, or the appendage-y human body, “the hip bone connected,” as it were. E. E. Cummings (I don’t know, DID he care about his name being presented in the lowercase all the time, or was it just when he was making a point about his lowercase self in the larger world?) was a master at subverting the expected order of words in a sentence, torquing the linear thought, surprising us, sometimes confusing us, but often showing us the world in a new way, crimping and jumbling the Venetian blinds of our view. His work suggests to me that order is mutable, and interesting things come when the rules of order are questioned, are loosened. Not only do I find the exercise of playing with the syntax of the sentences of my poem a useful editing activity, but I suspect there’s something to be learned here about life too. Every time I hit a birthday I wonder if I shouldn’t be doing such-and-such at this stage in my life, or shouldn’t I have accomplished x or y by now. (I mean, the freaking president of the US is my age. What the hell have I been doing?) But if I think of my life as a syntax unique to my nature and circumstance, then I can give myself a break. I can embrace the “somewhere i have never travelled,” can imagine glimpsing a bear driving an Impala through the quiet morning.

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