Bridging the Worlds
In the English department in the college where I taught, we had ESL classes – English as a Second Language. They were for people who’s mamas spoke Spanish or Urdu or Farsi. But what about the native speakers of English in our regular English classes?The language a child learns from his mother’s lips is his second language. His first language is the language of the grass growing and the language of the cells – and of rocks, too, all the bits and pieces coming together and circling back on one idea, one universe, one intelligence, one language, out of which spin all the infinite varieties.
When an English speaker looks at English, her understanding is incomplete til she sees the deep grammar it grew from.
dogs speaking only to dogs,
grouse only to grouse.
God only knows about
oak to palm – if at all
(and there’s a lot of doubt
that plants talk), yet
Violins, trumpets, kettle drums and
contraltos seem to get along quite well
practically the whole human-being
(give or take a rationalist or two), and
how about that air show
up there –
a hundred starlings never crashing
into each other, not even
discussing it, and no conductor,
that I can see? so then
is it any wonder, really,
that the border collie and the herder
and the sheep move in concert, too?
Or that some young Englishwoman
sitting by a stream in Tanganyika looks
into a wild chimpanzee’s eyes
and hears the music of the