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from the December 2014 issue

Linguistics in the Time of Uruguayan Invasion

I
Linguistics in the time of Uruguayan invasion.
When nobody cared about linguistics,
before France, before Saussure,
when nobody could have imagined a human being might ever think about
            linguistics.

II
They planted flags.
Loyally they defended their country to the limit
and far beyond it
was linguistics.

III
Linguistics isn’t a resource that’ll ever carry a nation to
            glory.
In fact, the glory of linguistics
matters to very few people.
If linguistics lacks glory,
who, then, who could it harm?
“All of mankind,” replies the linguist, a bit indignantly.

IV
Dedicating an entire life to linguistics.
Loving it like a homeland.
Going back to school.
Graduating from la Universidad de la República.
From the Magallanes and Uruguay campus.
Teaching.
Dreaming of fieldwork.
Getting a group of linguistics majors to join the
            project.
Working with them.
Bringing the finalized project to an institution.
And hoping the institution will decide it’s worth funding.

V
Months later the linguists will live in fear of hunger and penury.
They’ll have to look for work.
They’ll have to go back to teaching.
And future linguistics majors will take meticulous notes.

VI
When linguistics majors think about linguistics
(which they do pretty often)
they realize that they don’t know enough about linguistics.
And so:
they go to the Spanish Embassy
they want to apply to graduate programs.

They read up on grants
a lady with a reddish, plastered-down bun explains that if
            they teach at the Universidad de la República their
            chances of getting a grant / will improve.
They work on their curriculum vitaes.

Linguistics is a resource created for linguistics majors
it’s a resource parceled out in an almost circular fashion:
You get a linguistics degree
and you teach me linguistics.
Then we work together.
I’m much lower on the totem pole than you.
But we work together.
As time passes
I take on new students.
But you do, too.
And then, oh no!
We’re competing!!

 

VII
You print copies of your CV and disseminate it as widely
            as possible.
But I got there first
I already sent mine out.

But your CV is stronger than mine.
You took honors on your international English exams at the
            University of
Cambridge.
You speak fabulous French
And hold your own in Italian
you run computer programs I don’t even know about.
And you’ve been teaching at the university a lot longer than I have.
In 1997 you made waves with your essay about the
            diversity of dialects in Spain, which opened doors for you
            to speak at conferences in Salamanca.

VIII
You get that job that every linguistics graduate
            dreams of.
Then you apply for a grant that you get without much
            trouble.
And you’re off to Spain.
As for me,
I stay here,
I watch passing generations of linguistics majors.
I teach.
I grade midterms.

IX
And You return.
We meet again.
I look at you and you at me.
You ask to buy me a drink.
And between drinks you kiss me.
Oh wow.
I kiss you back.
Oh wow mwah mwah mchhhm mmmmmmmm
Suddenly your hand between my thighs
It’s late and the waiter begins to slump slowly against the bar
You sing a song into my ear (you’re a little drunk
            we both agree)”
“the moon wants to go to bed, let us do the same”

X
You take me home, I tell you that I thought we were going to my place and you say
            it doesn’t matter mwah mwah,
your hand gets ideas that go beyond polysemia.
We go to your room, oh my, first your house, you already know
            but not me, you / show me your kitchen and I say it’s
            so little, the three bears might fit / gummy bears but still
            you, you laugh, and you look out the window and I don’t understand
because the taxi’s still out there like it’s waiting for us to come to the door.

We won’t go out that door until tomorrow morning
and in his heart of hearts the taxi driver knows it
and understands us.

“Lingüística en los períodos de la invasión oriental” © Andrea Durlacher. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2014 by Anna Guercio Rosenwong. All rights reserved.

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