Sharon Larkin

A Barbaric Primer

To learn our language you must live as we do
and experience our apparent lack of culture,
for we are the definite article.

Yes, we are ill-disciplined, with some belligerent
idioms among us who will always fail your standards,
but we, the elite, parse all sentences.

Our reputation for marauding abroad is undeserved.
We are, at bottom, somewhat insular in outlook.
We are not keen on syntax. Our soft verbs do not conjugate.

We keep our sacred books locked away,
our codices veiled, our accent untainted,
our nouns uninfected. We do not do ‘plural’.

No, you may not study our ancient tomes.
Our alphabet has yet to be cracked
by your best minds and we are giving nothing away.

In centuries to come, your academics
will declare our language a mystery,
unconnected with any other.

We choose meanwhile to learn your lingua
so-called franca, the bastard tongue
you claim is the language of the Internet.

While your genetic ability for learning
our vernacular, or anyone else’s, degrades
we have been assiduous in our studies.

Overnight our cyberlords will take over
as heads of The Industry.
In the twinkling of a cursor, websites

will become illegible to all but us,
every broadcast will sound, how do you say? –
gobbledygook, and you will become

dumb beasts, unable to buy or sell,
incapable of working or even begging.
For we are barbarians and barbaric is our tongue.



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