8 After Babel PETER GOLDSWORTHY
I read once of a valley
where men and women
spoke a different tongue.
I know that any uncooked theory
can find its tribe
- but this might just be true.
For us there are three languages
- yours, mine, and the English [in] between,
a wall of noises.
At times our children interpret,
or music connects our moods.
There are also monosyllables,
the deeper grammar of fucking,
a language too subjective
But even after conjugation
the tense is still the same
- present imperfect.
We take our mouths from each other.
We carry away our tongues,
and the separate dictionaries of our heads.
from Contemporary Australian Poetry (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), edited by John Leonard.
Used and reprinted by permission.
[Square brackets indicate alteration.]
Click here for a reading by Ian McBryde of this poem, followed by one of his own.
Click here for a video of the Melbourne premiere of Leonard Lehrman's setting, Jan. 5, 2002.