Teatime at Guinness Outpost

My spelling checker flips to Rorschach mode.
‘Cremates’ was its suggestion for ‘cream teas’
when I typed ‘creamteas’. The ill this flip must bode
is the basis for my trembling as I ease
a first Guinness from the sideboard, let it chill
down to the temperature of the room
I pretend is British but comes from the bill
for heating that I swept with a new broom
into the fireplace where I store the wood.
I could not pay. When I told that to the gas
man, he said, ‘I did not think you would’.
Read and tremble at what comes to pass
when poets stoop to identicals to rhyme
and chat with spelling checkers till drinks time.

Inn Fashions

The old man doffs his nightingale and whinnies.
Aware from stares that his garb is wrong, he waits
near the entrance, while his hostess sets him straight.
‘You’re adorned in bird, as we all are on Wednesdays

but it’s Tuesday! Tuesdays tout le monde wears cow
in pieces on our heads and hands and feet.
And we don’t speak horse on Tuesdays, we all tweet,’
she trills, thrilled seeing he remembers now.

Itinerant Bon Mots Balls

Poem fragments form the flimsiest bon mots,
Being foreign-born moths, unused to English sun,
they mistake it for the moon and navigate
most erringly and end up waxing wroth.
No dotage-hampered colt whose race is run
nor any whinny-jaded reprobate
anticipates a moth preserved as Goth.
There are none here: no mots preserved in amber.
They ambled, rambled, flew the coop and went
back where they came from or straight on to Ghent.

Were Worthy Were

‘Which words resemble me?’ I asked.
The Red Queen answered, ‘None.’

‘Is that use or mention?’ I inquired.
‘Do no words look like me?

Is “None” my doppelgänger, Ma’am?’
There was silence in the Hall.

When someone laughed, ‘Off with his head!’
was what the Red Queen screamed.

Her liveried rabbits strode my way
and pointed tungsten pikes

at what I hoped was someone stood
behind me, and it was.

It was my password Were who laughed:
it was my old friend Were.

Were simpered still, subjectively.
The Red Queen rose, irate,

and ripped a pike from a rabbit’s hands
and smote Were on his pate.

And what was Were right up to then
went weirdly inert.

From the nose bleed nudged by queenly pike
rose flowers on Were’s shirt.

I wished no more that I were Were;
were that so I’d be dead.

I woke and wept for Were who wasn’t
anymore, and left.

Schnidly’s Gasconade Gas

His gasconade, his stock in trade,
pretending catachresis
is what he meant in lines he’s rent
asunder in his thesis,

makes Schnidly head of his Sixth Form’s
poetic blunders study
where his mix of misty metaphors
has drove his tutor nutty.

He lets the runner in his ode
fly to the Finnish line
to stub his toe on Maginot
and tentatively entwine

his privates with his general quarters
whilst striking up the band
which gets him reprimanded
by a mandrill Genghis Kahn.

Schnidly is three wines into Monday
when elevenses are served
and he’s sure the Candy Stripers
on his ward think he is perved.

He enrols in near-rhyme sonnets
cause he’s been banned from dizains
and he craves Alsatian curry
when he gazes at Great Danes

like his Hamlet who’s been hamstrung
by Schnidly’s lame production
of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.
He has brought the Bard destruction.

Clarity Begins at Home

Eurasia is an island of such grand impressive size
we say it’s not an island. But it is.
If you’re not there, and want to be,
somewhere you have to cross some sea
so QED the OED decrees Eurasia too must be
as insular as Maui, Crete, and Capri
unless we trash consistency
and rule exceptions set us free
of meaning anything when we
presume to name what we discern
and what we don’t. We never learn.

Not Much Speak Of

Two languages, two accents, neither mine.
I can do them both, not adequately but so
you’d recognize their traces in my whine
and bark and stops for glottal. Travels sow
the seeds for weedy puns and frontiers grow
so porous that they’re more honoured in the breach
than in the competence I nearly reach.
Occasioning confusion, stares and glee,
I am grateful that despite my slanted speech
the natives here, and there, are kind to me.

Accelerating signs of dying Dutch language?

Dutch, the language of the Netherlands, is dying and not too many people have noticed. I am not referring to the 90% of the world population unaware that Dutch is a language nor for that matter that the Netherlands is a country. I am talking about Dutch speakers, mostly in the Netherlands and Belgium. Few of them are aware of their language’s nearing demise. Almost all of them speak English and a good number of them are competent in German and French as well, not to mention all those who also are somewhat proficient in one to five other languages.
But it is English that is the pernicious killer here. English for years has been the most popular language for pop music, with most of any week’s top ten songs being sung not in Dutch but in English. Such a preference for not-my-mother tongue is unheard and unheard of in Germany, France and Spain.
English is the language of business in Holland and Belgium, certainly in the multinationals and also in the import and export trade which is the lifeblood of these economies. Here, English is trendy.
English has also in the last decade become the academic language of choice. In a successful attempt to attract foreign students, Dutch and Flemish universities and other institutes of higher learning require their professors to conduct their classes in English, even if both the professor and the majority of students in a given class are Dutch and Flemish. It does not take a Delphic oracle to conclude that once the highest level of education is given in a foreign language, the most educated people in these countries (1) will become even more proficient in English and, (2) will, perhaps subconsciously, come more and more to associate their native language as something to speak only, if it all, at home and in shops — an aboriginal dialect.
The trend here, where not only almost every educated person speaks English but where also almost everyone is educated, is accelerating. For at least a generation professional programmers have eschewed translations of technical manuals, preferring the precision and — let’s admit it — better general readability of the original English versions.
Dutch is not yet dead. It does and will survive in pubs and family gatherings, as the tongue of nostalgia and gezelligheid — that lovely and untranslatable Dutch/Flemish word and feeling combining sociability, friendliness, jolliness, merriment, comfort and coziness. But the language itself may be, probably is, dying. One recent case in point: Los diez grandes inventos de la evolución. That is the title of the Spanish translation of Nick Lane’s wonderful new book Life Ascending, The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, 2009. I bought my copy here in Amsterdam, in a Dutch bookstore, in the original version, the English version.
Where is the Dutch translation? There isn’t one. People here who read books by biochemists read English.