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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

learning languages

Children play -
conduct their adult business -
on a quiet pedestrian square
leaving records of their exploits there
for us, the world, posterity,
in scripts concocted out
of artifacts and chalk
(posterity in chalk...
now there's a thought), echoes
of rune and hieroglyph and gypsy sign
(and other, stranger, signs, the signs,
maybe, of races not yet born),
together with some bits of Arabic
and Japanese and bird signs - would you know?
I didn't know - until I overheard
them talking on the square -
that birds have written languages, use ciphers
left for one another in the snow:
footprints, for one;
or sticks they lay the way they build their nests
and leave for others of their kind
who understand the meanings of the codes.
To all those in the know
<^^/\O<> in arcanic ancient lingo means:-
The lady here leaves fruits and nuts for early birds.

A child is not a purist. Understand,
that being so,
they put to use a host of artifacts
and natural bits that come their way
to push back boundaries and help the sense along.
Dolls are frequent characters in these
mixed sentences. But what to make
of interwoven sticks (a part-
made nest) and next to it (inverted)
one torn half of a straw hat, the fruit of which,
once on the outside, now repose within -
signifying eggs perhaps? And what to make
of three men circled, holding hands? Stand back,
a wider view reveals the circle is a woman's
abdomen. The men are smokers and the woman
holds a fist up to her mouth.

16 comments:

The Unknowngnome said...

You've chalk-talked a fine piece of poetry here on this quiet pedestrian squre. I'm no purist but I think this script will reach posterity provided the code behind it survives. (Never can be to sure with software.)

Jim Murdoch said...

Took a few reads to get into this one but it grew on me. Like all writers—at least one assumes all writers feel this way—I am fascinated with all aspects of language. It’s only once we get older and start to understand how impossibly complex language is that we start to realise what an incredible achievement it is for a child—any child—to pick it up but I think what this poem does form me is underline the visual aspect of language: everything begins with pictures. And yet blind people also learn to speak. The one that always gets me is Helen Keller. Once you read her you just have to step back and wonder: How? How could she possibly grasp such concepts?

jabblog said...

Language is one form of communication but communication can be achieved through so many additional forms as you have pointed out. This is the understanding that comes instinctively to most though some people need help to read it.

Tabor said...

That very last image of the woman did throw me.

Rachna Chhabria said...

A different poem from your usual ones, Dave. Its good and threw up a lot of images in my mind.

haricot said...

Code is interesting tool to communicate only between those who know it. You seem to know variety of code to interact with nature.

ds said...

Wow. So much for innocent children playing on the sidewalk--the ending socked me right in the gut. So well done.
Also thought of a squirrel I watched the other day, a wad of twigs and leaves in its mouth, running up a tree to its nest. Where it disappeared. Must have been roofing...
Powerful stuff, sir. Thank you.

Lolamouse said...

Fascinating poem, Dave. I've always been interested in children's drawings, as I worked as a psychologist for many years. They are seldom what we think they are!

Mama Zen said...

I found this fascinating!

Windsmoke. said...

No matter how you communicate as long as you communicate :-).

Gerry Snape said...

great insight! I came down one morning this week at my daughter's to find " a shop" in progress on the lounge floor with many and varied goods for sale....plastic fruit, cardboard money and lots more. Neither of the "shopkeepers" wanted money ...just that you took part and communicated! fun.

Brian Miller said...

ha love to see inside the mind of children at play in their art...my son drew his thanksgiving pic of a large turkey in a colorful cloud...what was it...where the skunk had sprayed it...go figure...smiles.

Dave King said...

The Unknowngnome
Ah, confound it. Didin't give it a thought. But you're right, the code's more fragile than the chalk!

Jim
HI. Good to have you back again. Or maybe you've been back a while. I've had such problems with the broadband for the last 3 days or so: some web pages only showing their right hand sides, others not opening at all. Started somewhere around mid-day on News Year's day.
Still, it's ok now, so to other things.

I thought you were going to say that it's only as we get older and start to lose it that we realise...
I do agree with you about Helen Keller. I had a spell working in Adult Education (night classes for literature and reading) and I had a lad there who came because he had never learned to read, but was a delivery van driver. He had designed his own system of writing. He would pick up his parcels, ask where they were for, and write down the address in his own characters. He had a local map on which he'd re-written the names. He learned to read quite quickly. It turned out that he had an IQ far in excess of what was required for basic literacy.

jabblog
Thanks for this. Yes, of course, you are quite right. I come to my interest in language from several different angles: from teaching special needs children and illiterate adults, from an interest in literature and a fascination with the neurological side - about which I would have liked to kno w more.

Tabor
Sorry it threw you. The "interpretations" (if I can call them that) of the images are, of course, mine. I might be light years away from what was intended by their authors.

Rachna
Thank you for this. Good to know how folk find my efforts.

haricot
Interesting thought... not sure if you are correct where I am concerned, but it's definitely a thought-provoking idea. Thanks.

ds
Many thanks for this. I should repeat the proviso I gave above, I think. (To Tabor)

Lolamouse
No, absolutely they are not. As I've hinted above (Tabor), this was simply meant as a piece of art. I wouldn't like it to be viewed as though it is some sort of academic study! Thanks for your comment. Much appreciated.

Mama Zen
That's very encouraging, as I found the original "drawing" fascinating. Thank you.

Windsmoke
But the means changes the message.

Gerry
Fascinating anecdote. Thank you for it. Fun indeed - plus, as you say, insight!

Brian
Oh, that's tremendous! I really dig that! Thanks Brian.

Ygraine said...

Here is communication at it's very best! We so often think of interacting only with our own kind and this poem has effectively shattered that illusion forever.
Brilliant piece of work :)

Mary said...

Sorry I am late here. Life got in the way. I will just 'ditto' the Unknown Gnome. Quite a poem.

Dave King said...

Apologies to both for not picking up on these.

Ygraine
Ah, if only...
I think you do me too much honour, but I thank you for the thought.

Mary
Yeah, Life gets tedious at times, don't it? Or were you just livin it up? I do hope so. Thanks for the comment.