Christmas Snow
The Overshadow: A Poem

In Praise of Prepositions

[This clever poem reminded me of Will Strunk's and E.B. White's The Elements of Style, a classic guide to proper grammar and syntax.  Strunk had an obvious love for language, something that poets have to have as well.  The poet here has that love -- for prepositions of all things.  Usually I dislike the self-consciousness of writers writing about writing and prefer them merely to write something and not tell me about it.  This poem is a pleasure though, not tiresome like some such poems about words.]

Praise Prepositions

After against among, around. How I admire
prepositions, small as they are,
like safety pins, their lives given to
connecting. They are the paid help,
maids in black uniforms who pass
hors d'oeuvres, and they're
the forbidden joy that leaps between us
when we get to know them. Without
connection what can survive? Because
the lawn waits for sun to wake it from
its winter nap, we say sunlight
lies on the grass. Even the simplest jar
connects—jar under moonlight, on
counter, jar in water. It was prepositions
in the Valley of Dry Bones that stitched
the femur to the heel, heel to the foot bone.
And afterwards, they got up to dance.
Between, beside, within may yet keep
the precarious chins and breasts
from tumbling off Picasso's women.
I would make prepositions the stars of grammar
like the star that traveled the navy sky
the night sweet Jesus lay in his cradle,
pulling those kings toward Bethlehem,
and us behind them, trekking
from the rim of history toward Him.

(Jeanne Murray Walker, from Books and Culture, Nov/Dec 2006)

"Omit needless words!" said Will Strunk.  Indeed.  I've said too much already.  But maybe tomorrow you'll have a better appreciation for prepositions, the great connectors of our shared language.

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