Title: The Spell Against Spelling - George Starbuck
(a poem to be inscribed in dark places and never to be spoken aloud) My favorite student lately is the one who wrote about feeling clumbsy. I mean if he wanted to say how it feels to be all thumbs he Certainly picked the write language to right in in the first place I mean better to clutter a word up like the old Hearst place Than to just walk off the job and not give a dam.
Another student gave me a diagragm. "The Diagragm of the Plot in Henry the VIIIth."
Those, though, were instances of the sublime. The wonder is in the wonders they can come up with every time.
Why do they all say heighth, but never weighth? If chrystal can look like English to them, how come chryptic can't? I guess cwm, chthonic, qanat, or quattrocento Always gets looked up. But never momento. Momento they know. Like wierd. Like differant. It is a part of their deep deep-structure vocabulary: Their stone axe, their dark bent-offering to the gods: Their protoCro-Magnon pre-pre-sapient survival-against-cultural-odds.
You won't get me deputized in some Spelling Constabulary. I'd sooner abandon the bag-toke-whiff system and go decimal. I'm on their side. I better be, after my brush with "infinitessimal."
There it was, right where I put it, in my brand-new book. And my friend Peter Davison read it, and he gave me this look, And he held the look for a little while and said, "George..."
I needed my students at that moment. I, their Scourge. I needed them. Needed their sympathy. Needed their care. "Their their," I needed to hear them say, "their their."
You see, there are Spellers in this world, I mean mean ones too. They shadow us around like a posse of Joe Btfsplks Waiting for us to sit down at our study-desks and go shrdlu So they can pop in at the windows saying "tsk tsk."
I know they're there. I know where the beggars are, With their flash cards looking like prescriptions for the catarrh And their mnemnmonics, blast 'em. They go too farrh. I do not stoop to impugn, indict, or condemn; But I know how to get back at the likes of thegm.
For a long time, I keep mumb. I let 'em wait, while a preternatural calmn Rises to me from the depths of my upwardly opened palmb. Then I raise my eyes like some wizened-and-wisened gnolmbn, Stranger to scissors, stranger to razor and coslmbn, And I fix those birds with my gaze till my gaze strikes hoslgmbn, And I say one word, and the word that I say is "Oslgmbnh."
"Om?" they inquire. "No, not exactly. Oslgmbnh. Watch me carefully while I pronounce it because you've got only two more guesses And you only get one more hint there's an odd number of esses, And you only get ten more seconds no nine more seconds no eight And a right answer doesn't count if it comes in late And a wrong answer bumps you out of the losers' bracket And disqualifies you for the National Spellathon Contestant jacket And that's all the time extension you're going to gebt So go pick up your consolation prizes from the usherebt And don't be surprised if it's the bowdlerized regularized paperback abridgment of Pepys Because around here, gentlemen, we play for kepys."
Then I drive off in my chauffeured Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Like something out of the last days of Fellini's Rougham And leave them smiting their brows and exclaiming to each other "Ougham! O-U-G-H-A-M Ougham!" and tearing their hair.
Intricate are the compoundments of despair.
Well, brevity must be the soul of something-or-other.
Not, certainly, of spelling, in the good old mother Tongue of Shakespeare, Raleigh, Marvell, and Vaughan. But something. One finds out as one goes aughan.