Course in General Linguistics
I. A Glance at the History of Linguistics
Language belongs to castaways and cult leaders. Students of Language wrinkle their foreheads and sweat when they chew. Language builds demand for the continued commercialization of Language. The house of Language fills with monologues and self-portraits. Language: a tongue slipping deliriously toward simplification by age and dollar. Language enters a gated community pretending to be silence. Language is a black-haired fly confidently touching a face. Language is younger than a pebble in a driveway, younger than the cliff from which the despondent jump. When the door to Language opens, a light turns on. As the door closes, the light pauses then goes dark.
II. Subject Matter and Scope of Linguistics
Language spreads through contact with doorknobs and toilet seats. Language bridges the gulf between machine and oyster. Language possesses a half-life of two weeks. Safe handling of Language involves a measure of indifference. Language appears in Philadelphia’s drinking water. Language stands at the second floor window and stares longingly at a rendering plant. Language distrusts long poems. Language attempts to taste the real and ends up with a mouthful of sand. Language annoys its siblings by patting them on the back of the head. In 1976 Language was invited to join the Book-of-the-Month Club. Arguments with Language often lead to hours of awkward silence.
Famous Entrepreneurs, part 1: J.L. Kraft
J. L. Kraft stares at his hands.
Everything he touches takes on a uniform flavor.
J. L. Kraft is on the radio
manipulating your prejudice against microbes.
J. L. Kraft perches at the piano.
The instrument’s keys seem to remember his fingers.
J. L. Kraft was not embalmed.
He was processed.
J. L. Kraft flirts with eternity.
He sleeps in foil and dreams of an infinite shelf life.
J. L. Kraft is radioluminescent.
Those closest to him are slowly poisoned by his beautiful glow.
J. L. Kraft is at the furnace again.
He’s burning the furniture.
The chairs become a memory made of ash.
Famous Entrepreneurs, part 2: Ray Kroc
Ray Kroc divided the loaves: soft bread for a nation
with bad teeth.
Ray Kroc took his place beside you. There was awkward
silence at the urinal.
You had opinions about meat.
Ray Kroc fingered the keys, tapping a few sad notes.
A crowd of pigeons descended on the piazza.
This is the city of gristle and paper cups.
Here every ambulance driver wears greasepaint
and a scarlet nose.
This is the empire of air conditioning.
Here the hours grind and the scent of boiling grease
patrols the parking lot.
This is Pickerington, Ohio. The heat swims above
the driveway. Mansions dwindle into the horizon.
One by one we take our turns and swell.
Three Theses on Political Economy
Between what I forget
and what I discover
struts my selfish pity.
There is the road to my house.
Here is the road to Wendy’s
and Kroger’s. This
road’s known angles
lead to my refrigerator.
I’m the guard of roast meat:
crisp skin and suckling
pig. I can’t make it
through the kitchen without
opening the ice box. I won’t
abandon the blood sausage,
the tins of livers.
I work all night slipping scissor
points under stitches. In
the morning, your pants fall apart.
While you sleep I snip
your jaw hair. You wake looking
like the Captain Morgan pirate.
When you think
no one is watching, I draw
attention to your stains.
Time of purchase is erased
from my receipt: no refund.
Empty account. Tail spent.
I won’t describe the clean collapse.
I won’t squeal over the special news fix.
I won’t short the moral slip.
A damaged cabinet? A botched gutter?
Protest there — where chance has connected
heads to bodies and where necks,
at late hours, are rods that drop
their bait. If it weren’t for the spotlight
we would never see our lines
drifting in warm black water.
With any luck I’ll die in a flood
Transliteration of Catullus LVIIIb
LVIIIb. A Devious Camera
Non-customers slip fingers through illegal
excretions. The non-leader’s ego pin-ups pursue us.
Nonsense? I pee gasoline.
Are you too afraid of light? No rehearsals
are needed to eat the city’s unique baggage.
Addled hose, plump impediment: you locate
a volatile burlesque. Senators,
your simulacra require curses. Questions,
injunctions, cameras — my hair
declares deafening confessions.
Take my number, busy medulla oblongata,
and melt this language.
The horrible supersedes us.
I see a quarter in your hand, estimate my height.
Nathan Moore’s work appears in various places including Menacing Hedge, Fleeting Magazine, Pudding Magazine, and Everyday Genius. In May, 2009, he was named first place winner of the William Redding Memorial Contest sponsored by the Poetry Forum. Online, Nathan shares his writing at Exhaust Fumes and French Fries.