That first autumn in Finland I finally felt
what I'd been teaching for so long: the gap
between signified and signifier,
but also the loveliness of language,
the necessity of our inventions.
It was in the grocery store, among the shrink-
wrapped parsakaali and kukkakaali,
cruising down the rows of aamiaismurot
and leivoskeksejä, standing before
the long red slices of lohi on ice.
What's important, I thought, is not just
the naming, but also what accretes around
the name, the way flesh covers and swells
over the pit of the sweet, purple luumu.
Copyright 2000, David Starkey
David Starkey is currently Fulbright Professor of English at the University
of Oulu in Finland. His poems have appeared in numerous print journals,
including Alaska Quarterly Review, The American Scholar,
Atlanta Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Cimarron Review.
In addition, he has published several collections of poems with small presses:
Koan Americana, A Year with Gayle, and Others, Adventures
of The Minor Poet (I*D Books, 1994), and most recently, Open Mike
Night at the Cabaret Voltaire.
Switched-on Gutenberg/Vol. 4, No. 2