Two Poems by Richard Fein

Relaxing the Grammatical Rules of a Dying South American Language
The language is pronounced as trio. The spelling is uncertain.
The village is in Suriname.

Truth is a grammatical necessity in Trio.
The syntax of this language makes liars speak poorly,
for one must name the direct source for each quote.
So when a stranger entered the village and read
from the talking leaves wrapped in hides,
how the Great Shaman, Jesus,
commanded the tribe to follow the god of the strangers,
that stranger’s sentence was grammatically incomplete.
For if the stranger was never eye-to-eye or ear-to-ear with that Great Shaman
how could he know what words the Shaman actually spoke?
In Trio the outcome of each verb is also part of its conjugation.
There are a half-dozen ways to qualify “to hope”
and a dozen ways to modify “to despair,”
but in their vocabulary of truths “to love” has no meaning.
for that infinitive, to love, is like a wide palm leaf that blocks the sun
and casts a penumbra that muddles clear distinctions.
In their tongue no one loves another,
rather they proclaim shades of affection.
One must speak this language meticulously,
for in this tongue hearsay is defined, lies exposed, and truths heard
in the myriad nuances of inflections.
Once upon a time truth and Trio were linguistic twins.
But enter gasoline generators, radios, and so many other fast-talking strangers.
Now when their grandparents try to teach them the old truths,
the grandchildren reply, “We’re listening,” but without a trace of inflection.

Auditions for My Multiple Personalities
I’ve typed not one character on paper
and so my room is full of my usual characters.
The writer in me issued my casting call.
Variety magazine classifieds must dangle somewhere in my brain,
for how else could this crew so suddenly show up?
The activist demanding to be heard,
the old Chinese guy who mistakes meaningless platitudes for Buddhism,
the disillusioned priest, rabbi, minister, the playboy,
the lonely lover, the baseball homerun king, the woman scorned.
The woman scorned???
Among this casting call of wannabe masculine thespians
is there an actual drama-queen queen anxiously awaiting her cue?
And of course there’s always the penniless writer in his daytime waiter garb,
that generic misunderstood oh so tortured alcoholic soul.
For isn’t every writer a closet-alcoholic puking out Shakespearian drivel?
I tell them all, once again, I can’t pay. All they’ll get is exposure,
exposure for a cast of self-absorbed exhibitionists upstaging one another.
Suddenly the personalities dematerialize, except the one in the mirror.
He yells, “Exposure my ass.”
He rips off his clothes and curses me for wasting his time,
then demands carfare to go home.
But I’m broke, and besides he is home.
So now he’s running around naked in my living room
waving blank typing paper.
I’d tell him to leave but I’d be ordering myself around,
and I take orders from no one.

About the Poet
Richard Fein was a finalist in The 2004 New York Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. A Chapbook of his poems was published by Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has been published in many web and print journals such as Cordite, Cortland Review, Reed, Southern Review, Roanoke Review, Green Silk Journal, Birmingham Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Paris/atlantic, Canadian Dimension, and others.