Three Poems by Carl Leggo

Carl Leggo, University of British Columbia, carl.leggo@ubc.ca

Spelling

in school I learned to spell words with precise correctness
but I seldom learned the sensuous spell of language

in school I learned the rules and stipulations of grammar
but I seldom learned the glamour, the alchemy of prepositions

in school I learned the conventions of syntax
but I seldom learned the lyrical resonances of connections

in school I learned to chant the teacher’s dictums
but I seldom learned the enchantment of poetry

in school I learned facts, fat fatuous facts full of lies,
but I seldom learned the restorative joy of fiction and fantasy

in school I learned to color inside the prescribed lines
but I seldom learned about wild places beyond, elsewhere

in school I learned the denotative definitions of words
but I seldom learned the magic of capacious connotation

in school I learned to be good, an anesthetic obedience
but I seldom learned to ask with aesthetic wonder, what is good

in school I learned to be neat tidy clean even pristine
but I seldom learned to enjoy the body’s erotic energies

in school I learned to grow my brain-mind-head like a cabbage
but I seldom heard my heart beat or the hearts of anyone else

in school I learned to fear the arts like wild lions, lacking logic,
but I still caught glimpses of dandelions in the cracks of sidewalks

and so I dance with lines, straight and slant, curvaceous and cursive
and I dance with dandy lions, too, no longer fearing their ferociousness

 

Conjunctions

while I once sought the whole
I only ever found holes

because I can never tell
a whole story, I seek fragments

since I am an incomplete sentence
I seek communion with others

like the possibilities of conjunctions
ghosts are everywhere, everywhen

as they call us eagerly to connect
like bridges that lean on light

with invitations to walk in places
where we have been but never been

conjunctions invite us to know inter-
connections, even if our eyes are dim

 

Literally

pragmatic practical
     with
prosaic exactitude

faith in the actual
    factual    eschewing
the figurative

we construe words
with too little imagination
we follow words

    in the original
a literal translation
    letter by letter

      without
    exaggeration
the nature of letters

is domesticated
    in the alphabet
the literator is no

    liberator
lashes with literalism
      too literal

    we need to lie
in the possibilities
    of the littoral

      know how
literacy & literature
    are not owned

by the literati
    we do not need
the letter of the law

      we need
the love of the letter
      the letter’s love

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