First Things

[[[work in progress...Copyright 2006, Doug Tarnopol]]]

I. Preliminaries

Have you ever noticed?—
Those who privilege the Word
Drive language to conclusions
That are patently absurd?

Heirs of Petrarch
Have made stony rule
Of language’s domain
Thus rebuilding the School.

Jealous, no doubt—
And who can blame them?—
Of the sciences’ attainment
Of the disciplines’ diadem.

In a coup de force
By vanity spurred
They declare to the Thingers:
“First comes the Word!”

The flanking maneuver
Takes many a form:
“Episteme,” “paradigm,” “frame”—
Some referenceless norm.

The object dethroned
(Excepting grammatical)
The subject now grants
Things endless sabbatical.

Word and Thing now divorced
And custody granted
Solely to Word over
A World reenchanted.

No correspondence allowed
From Word’s sealed prison,
Thing languishes apart
Deemed unreal in Word’s vision

All this has occurred
In dreams discontented
While in reality, Things remain
Their realness undented.

But the arrogance of the Thingers!
It is all-too-well-known
How little they heed
How their own thoughts are sown.

Many a Thinger
Has mistaken for real
What turned out to be Word
After the waning of zeal.

It seems that the rub
Is to constantly beware
Of the symbols one uses—
One should use them with care.

But regardless of care
Taken in all good faith
No fallible person
Can avoid fleshing wraiths.

“Fallible person”—
A redundancy surely
Knowledge of Things
Comes not to one purely.

“Purely”—hardly ever!—
Does one person approach
Knowledge of Things
Beyond any reproach.

Only in concert—
In support or dissension—
Do Things reveal
Their true dimension.

Thus, I use language
From letter to symbol
To convey you my thoughts,
Be they lame or nimble.

Being merely human
To you I defer
To divine if my Words
Reveal Things or a blur.


If I may continue
To the meat of my offering
To what can we ascribe
The correspondence I’m proffering?

The proof of the notion
Of things etymological
Must needs be reside
In the past biological.

What? Can this be?
Why bother to read on?
This reactionary reduces
Mankind to agon!

Calm yourself, please!
My politics tilt left,
A thorough materialist
Of spirit bereft.

The dis-enchantment
Of birth and development
Does not entail
A rightwing envelopment.

To return to the point
Our language is an organ
No different in kind
From those viewed by Morgan

Unique? No doubt.
As are all traits, you know,
From the nose on your face
To enzymes that sew.

Copyright 2006, Doug Tarnopol