Archive for December, 2010

Reader Advisory: This Post May Contain *Poetry*!!!

December 30, 2010 5 comments


Be prepared to:





Photo: author: Asbestos; Src: WikiCommons; Licence: CC 2.0

That Place in the Thigh

December 30, 2010 6 comments



That Place in the Thigh

(for my grandfather, Franklin)

you’ll turn the fans on, that

      first night;

in the morning, the skies

will be flat,

the leaves listless, tattered,


wandering up the hills;

      it isn’t autumn yet,

when you boil apples down in

sugar and vinegar—no, and

no new work yet, the pain fresh

and hungry—

you can’t tell the buddies, not really,

about this place, damp & ratty &

       you don’t want to know what

      your family might say, the gospel

choir downstairs notwithstanding…

and, after all, what is there to say; things happen.

   in the evening, when the

sun turns the wires to silver ladders

and burns the brick wall blowzy

and shining,

                    you’ll wonder

      about your boy, sharp as his mother,

      (no belly of clouds)

and tough,

                but for the

ineffable rage, the phone call with

the minister at your side, the frantic silence,

the wife’s dignity: “He’s out…does he

have your number?”

              there is a final thought, the world

sliding down towards absence—you must

climb the words, one by one, knowing no

   one is listening, that astray you have

   known things people will remember: that

   the floor of heaven is stone, that the man

                who lives there wears your face,

      that what we say is just what we

      say, not what the

words might—

that you will not see until you see

your face scattered

                                  and sprung,


the sound of his feet on the

stairs, the short, polite knock—

   the words will come to you

                                    then, the

trains clattering away down the block,

   your hair cropped and

   the wine cooled all night—

and his words, too, unvictorious,

   wrestled–uncontrite, limping &


   shaped, as if in bone-struggle (that

          place in the thigh)



steaming on battered brick,

                                  (heaven’s sluice)—

                                   the rain, the

long sheets of rain.


–The Rag Tree


Photo: Oak Leaves; E. Herbst; WikiCommons

Hot Springs in Snow

December 28, 2010 6 comments

Chena Hot Springs; WikiCmns; Auth: Frank K.

There are worse ways to warm the spirit come January:

Hot Springs in Snow

The air steams, the trees

bend and shed a mist of ice:

Your face blossoms joy.

–The Rag Tree

The Dragons of Grammar

December 27, 2010 45 comments
Tamatori pursued

I suspect that grammar is often thought of as one of “the dismal arts” (which really isn’t a contradiction in terms), that is, as in the same category as, say, plumbing. And there is no denying that grammar lies somewhere deep in the guts of language–just listen to the names of its components:

1) Morphology; (links to RT’s page on subject)

2) Syntax;

3) Phonology;

5) Semantics; and

No wonder there’s a glamor issue here. But a recent remark by Wordgathering has inspired me to attempt to make the enterprise a little sexier, a likelier candidate for a tweet or two.

Let’s start by defining the cables and joists of this craft:
  • Morphology: deals with the units of meaning in language: words, parts of speech, intonation/stress, and how they work to build up meaning.
  • Syntax: deals with the way sentences are put together in a language. If a language is highly inflected, its syntax (or word-order) is fairly unimportant to meaning; if a language is not inflected (English, for example), word-order becomes vital to meaning.
  • Phonology: deals with the music of a language, that is, the ways it uses syllables, rythym, gestures, and (oh mi gosh!) rhyme to articulate and enhance meaning. One might think of it as the scientific study of poetry.
  • Phonetics: deals with the actual, physical production of language–how the mouth, sinuses, and throat act during speech. It is concerned with such things as acoustic properties, auditory perception, and neurophysiological issues.
  • Semantics: deals with meaning as it is conveyed through words, phrases, signs, and symbols. It attempts to answer the question, how does language encode and convey meaning?
  • Pragmatics: deals with the way context contributes to meaning. It focuses on such things as talk in everyday situations, implication, and ambiguity.
Wow, I don’t know about you, but this foray into grammar, which I will hazard is the formal study of the way language works, has been a wee bit overwhelming (as in encountering a dragon and living to tell the tale) for me. Thankfully, the lunch bell is ringing….but we will doubtless hear more about this important topic later….     RT
Image: art, Kuniyoshi; source, WikiCommons.

Peace on Earth

December 25, 2010 4 comments

…and goodwill to all men!

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
     And their spears into pruning hooks;
     Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
     Neither shall they learn war anymore.”



Image 1: Marianne Stokes, An Angel; Image 2: Dolledre. Src: Wikicommons

Hubble’s Christmas

December 23, 2010 4 comments

Here’s a gift from Santa to widen an elf’s eyes…

(photo src: Hubble Telescope; NASA & ST-sci)

NGC 2074 in Large Magellanic Cloud; Hubble Telescope


December 22, 2010 4 comments

As far as I know, there is only one alphabet that can represent in writing any sound spoken in any language: the International Phonetic Alphabet.

The origins of the IPA go all the way back to 1886, when a group of French linguists formed the International Phonetic Association. Working originally with an alphabet designed to represent any sound spoken in a European language, the Association redesigned its alphabet in 1888 so that it could be used to write any language.

Since its inception, the IPA has undergone several revisions, the most recent of which took place in 2005. But the core of the alphabet has remained unchanged for some time.

Hold onto your hats, folks. This alphabet does not look like anything you’ve ever seen before. Rather than providing  a lengthy explanation, I’m just going to upload a chart containing the alphabet, so that people can get used to the look of it:


Ok, folks, take your time getting used to this: the IPA is the scientific approach to creating an alphabet, and was created instead of evolving over thousands of years, like the English Alphabet. There is certainly no need to master all of it; it does, however, indicate the range of sounds that people make. And I might as well say now that this is not the complete alphabet; I’ll post the other charts in one of my next few posts.    RT


Chart source: