Monday, February 14, 2011

How to spell 'Melancholy'

by E. Wong Martin
for Mitsiku

Our lesson for today is about happiness
and how one writes it with a capital letter,
perhaps bold, or do you prefer
italics? The principal says
that it may be found among the piles
of unread books, or the mouldy sandwiches
from the canteen. Now we will give you
ten seconds
and ten years to spell it correctly,
and when in doubt, you may consult
our school janitor—just please do not insult
him on how he always stinks of beer
because it is not alcohol you smell
but the long years of sweeping,
and waiting, and weeping, and cleaning off
semen or dried tears on the floor.
You are not required to turn
to your science books, as they don’t yet
have a theory on fireworks and sex,
or forgiveness
and loss. But when you say
‘one,’ it means ‘two-halves’—simple
as that, really. Do not tell anybody,
but math is the secret spouse
of grammar. Probability (or is it
statistics?) has it:
One day, someday,
you can write it again, perhaps faster,
perhaps with bigger letters, perhaps
in Bisaya or French, or even sign
Remember, left or right
hand, it doesn’t matter, for as long
as you have an eraser ready.
Remember, wrong or right,
we do not deduct points for as long
as you do not cheat.
Do not put any period, too—
now this is very important in all writing.
Most of all, when you do,
close your eyes, but keep
that thing in your chest open…
now what’s that called again?


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