Summer 2011 • Vol. XXXIII No. 3 Poetry |

Me Meaneth

I. The calf lay meaning herself. What does that mean? The calf lay moaning in the pasture. As in a long-forgotten Scottish poet's lines the dictionary lets demonstrate one thing mean once meant: to moan, to lament— The speaned lambs mene their mithers As they wimple ower the bent. I can't stop myself from muttering that, though you have no idea what I've said: what's speaned? what's mither? what's wimple? what's bent? We could trace it if we wanted to: the dictionary's alphabetical, the words all lined up like children in a rush, blindfolded, to bash at a piñata. We could trace T. S. Cairncross himself, and his lost poem, and his lambs, the words that merge into his last name—a tomb, a mound of stones left as a memorial— but what would that heap of memory-stones commemorate? The cairns lay along the crossroads. The calf lay meaning in the fields. The speaned lambs wimple as they mean. What's mither?—Mother. What's ower?—Over. What's bent?

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