Friday, November 22, 2013

Because (for want of)

Because wind.
Because rain.
Because too damp earth.
Because rust or pitted steel.
Because fatigue.
Because no one there.
Because night.
Because stormy.
Because inattention.
Because heavy.
Because jackstand sunken or failed.
Because 40,000 pounds.
Because weight shifting.
Because gravity.
Because ground.
Because not there.
Because trust.
Because not trustworthy,
                        the boat came tumbling down.

I knew as soon as my friend, Bess Rose, sent me an article on the English grammar shift of the year--look sharp, "because" is now a preposition!--that I wanted to write a poem built around this phenomenon. I also knew that I wanted to try to tell a story in my poem. As I thought about the problem, I remembered a version of that rhyme, "for want of a nail":

For want of a nail the shoe was lost;  
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the battle was lost;  
For the failure of battle the kingdom was lost—
All for the want of a horse-shoe nail.

This rhyme, which exists in many forms, is widely supposed to refer, initially, to the unhorsing and death of Richard III of England in the Battle of Bosworth in 1482. And indeed, in Shakespeare's Richard III, King Richard shouts out "A Horse! A Horse! My kingdom for a Horse!" There are other versions that the British used during World War II that implicate ships in a similar manner--this is, in fact, the version I'd learned:

"For want of a nail, the board was lost. For want of the board, the vessel was lost. For want of the vessel, a battle was lost. For loss of the battle a war was lost...."

We do not yet know if our own boat is lost, but its downing is a similar story of inattention at the yard where we had placed her, trusting to them to look after her well. It seems, however, that a jackstand (one of the supports used to keep a boat upright on land) failed beneath Quoddy's Run, and that others might not have been quite properly placed....

This poem is dedicated to Bess, in gratitude for her grammatically keen eye and many gifts.
A link here, to the Atlantic article she sent me:

Why has this strange and truncated use of because as a preposition come about? Because internet, and texting and general busy-ness and laziness and shorthand, you can now dispense with that pesky tiny preposition of, and proceed directly from because to cause. Because fun! Because because.

Photos were taken in West Quoddy, NS this week.

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