Metalanguage

Avila 2007a 157.jpg

Metalanguage I

I wonder what I’m doing here, so far from home, sitting
at the bar, with my beer before me, my face distorted
in half a dozen esperpentic mirrors, surrounded by
people half my age, or less, all smoking, cursing, using
foreign forms of meta-language, gestures I no longer recall:
the single finger on the nose, two fingers on the forehead,
the back of the hand rammed against the chin with a sort
of snort of disapproval. It’s way beyond my bedtime; yet
I am held here, captured, body and soul, by foreign rhythms,
unreal expectations of a daily ritual that runs on unbroken
cycles of time: morning coffee, pre-lunch wine and tapas,
home for the mid-day meal, a brief siesta, back to the café
for a post-prandial raising of spirits, more coffee, then back
to work at four and struggle on until seven or eight when
the bar routine begins again with pre-supper tapas and wine.
Time, divorced from this cycle now lacks meaning.
Time within this cycle is meaningless too.

El Rincón
03 VIII 2005

Metalanguage II

I wonder what I’m doing here,
so far from home,
sitting at the bar, my beer before me,
my face distorted in half a dozen
fairground mirrors,
surrounded by people half my age,
or less, all smoking, cursing,
using foreign forms of meta-language,
gestures I no longer recall:
the single finger on the nose,
two fingers on the forehead,
the back of the hand rammed against the chin
with a sort of snort of disapproval.

It’s way beyond my bedtime;
yet I am held here,
captured, body and soul,
by foreign rhythms,
unreal expectations of a daily ritual
that runs on unbroken cycles of time:
morning coffee,
pre-lunch wine and tapas,
home for the mid-day meal,
a brief siesta,
back to the café for a post-prandial
raising of spirits,
more coffee,
then back to work at four
and I struggle on until seven or eight
when the bar routine begins again
with pre-supper tapas and wine.

Time,
divorced from this cycle
now lacks meaning.

Time
within this cycle
is meaningless too.

Idlewood
24 IX 2016

18 thoughts on “Metalanguage

    • The difference partly is “This is what it means” versus “What does this mean to you?” The first statement puts the teacher and authority in control and first; the second hands the power of meaning over to the reader, no matter how young, little read, or seemingly unprepared he or she may be. When children / students learn early to interpret the literary world for themselves, they are better prepared to meet, later on, the opinions of others. NB no top-down, know-it-all academic believes in this statement. For them, students are seen as empty heads to be filled with the “right” knowledge from the “source of all wisdom” and that source is exterior (the teacher) not interior (a power growing and developing within the learner).

      Liked by 1 person

      • It never ceases to amaze me that, when reading comments, corresponding with virtual strangers or accidentally coming across some blog or website, whenever I least expect it, I find kindred spirits.

        I don’t know if you have read the initial chapters for my novel as they appear on my Goodreads “Pearl’s Writing” page, but the basis of my protagonist’s experience with her Sunday School was based on what I went through both at church AND in school…and so did my own children.

        I taught my kids that they were not to allow being treated as automatons, but to use what they were being taught as fodder for freedom of thought….not in a radical, “Question Authority”, manner, but to analyze and think and make decisions based on their own curiosity and eventual discernment and understanding. Believe what they believe, rather than what someone told them to believe. Yeah, Sunday AND weekday teachers just LOVVVVED to see me walk in the room!

        I never understood why it was so important to look at a painting with ONLY “what was s/he trying to say?”, instead of “what does this say to me?” I may eventually grasp his/her statement through the art of it, but I won’t buy that painting because of it’s personal meaning to its creator, but how it causes me to think. Does that make any sense? To you…to many…it probably does.

        I’m the same about poetry, prose and books. I read the “About the Author” and many times I can see (or be curious about) where the story or poem came from. But, just as I approach reading the Bible, I will enjoy it more if I can find that bit of relation to my own circumstances. It results in a wonderful, give/take friendship (even if you never meet the author in this life), rather than an impersonal, “I know more than you, so shut up and learn” temporary, unpleasant, ‘wow, I’m glad I’m done with THIS class’ relationship!!

        There I go again…a long email takes up residence in a simple comment box!

        Liked by 1 person

      • There is no such thing as a simple comment box … it might be simple when it is empty, but once it is filled up … well … you never know what you will find in it … and there are many pearls of wisdom … even a few well-directed words can pack more punch than many of the so-called learned people I met during the course of my career.

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  1. It is fascinating how a change in the structure of words can make such a difference in the reading of the piece. I know we’ve talked about that before, Roger, but Metalanguage II demands more focus on specific parts of the imagery, I think. Metalanguage I flows through the narrative…interesting, because the words are the same. Excellent and thought provoking!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great commentary, Tanya. Thank you. I kept the two dates (original and today’s revision) in part to see how the ten year difference between writing and revising changed the thought process. Esperpentic, for example, is a Spanish word that deals with highly metaphoric language that distorts the meaning of reality, as in a fairground’s distorting mirror. I changed it to ‘fairground’ to clarify the meaning. Looking back on the original, I remember how I was trying to ‘conceal rather than reveal’ the meaning. Now, I think it is better to ‘reveal’ somethings while ‘concealing’ others within the flow of language. Above all, as we all know, we can attempt to shape the reader’s thoughts; but we can by no means control them.

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      • It’s always interesting to read what other people take away from the words, because we infuse so much of ourselves when we read. I think writing is the most intimate of the storytelling “arts” in that respect: There are no layers between the writer and his or her reader (no interpretation of actor, director, etc.). It is just the words and their reception.

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      • Absolutely right. This is particularly true of the function of metaphor within the verse. Meaning lies not in the two terms of the metaphor, but in the space between those two terms. That space belongs only to the reader. Thus, when I write “half a dozen fairground mirrors” I have a concept in mind, perhaps a specific fairground, perhaps a specific set of distorting mirrors. But each reader’s fair ground will be different from mine and each reader will take a different vision (fatter, thinner, hour glass etc) from a mirror that distorts … I love the way that words can play with our minds and create their own individual shapes within us!

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