Australian poem: 2008 series: #1 — Marian Spires "War on Language" (2003)

10 Jan

This  year the Friday Australian Poem will continue in a slightly new guise, as I am not committing myself to any given day. However, there will be one every week, perversely tagged “Friday poem” so it continues the set in the WordPress tagging system.

Today’s poem is one of many published by the Poets Union in 2003 I suspect, though the copyright note says 2004. They are part of an international set of Poems about War.

War on Language

They say:
Truth is the first casualty of war
they are wrong
it is Language

Language goes AWOL when the first shot is fired

Language is packing its bags
it’s heading for the border
looking over its shoulder
nervously checking its papers
will it pass go or
be monopolised
compromised again

Language is waiting in transit
hiding in the hold of a leaking ship
anxious to leave the violence behind
Language knows it will be tortured
if it returns home ˆ it can never return home
Language will risk word smugglers

Language is a refugee
made illegal by circumstance
Language is being detained behind a cyclone fence
it is being held against its will

Language doesn’t know who it can trust anymore
it was rescued and escaped in a mini-bus
then left to fend for itself in a desert of concerned onlookers
all holding remote controls and ready to switch channels

Language has a secret
It knows how quickly
a disturbance becomes an intervention
how overnight it can change from
a local police action
to a global reaction
to first strike and zero tolerance

There is a war on Language

Marian Spires

You’ll find everyone from Les A Murray to ten-year-olds in that set. Do look at it.

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Posted by on January 10, 2008 in Australia, OzLit, poets and poetry


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