Sunday, April 27, 2014


I'm currently teaching a student from Donetsk in the Ukraine. Which means that instead of her saying 'I am at a loss which dress to buy' she is coming up with sentences like 'I am at a loss why the Russian Separatists have stolen cars from the local car showroom.' In recent weeks she tells me her mother has been stopped by people asking directions to the square. She also says there are linguistic giveaways which betray the nationality of people claiming to be from the Ukraine.

'In England people never use 'subway' they use 'tube.' In the US people never use 'tube' they use 'subway.' Likewise, some of these militants have been heard using the St Petersburg dialect word for kerb 'porebrik' instead of the Ukrainian 'bordur.'

Video from Kramatorsk

It's all a little like the dog which runs up to its owner in klan costume and exposes his identity.

Here is a robustly applicable poem by Michael Donaghy.


One didn’t know the name of Tarzan’s monkey
Another couldn’t strip the cellophane
From a GI’s packet of cigarettes.
By such minutiae were the infiltrators detected.
By the second week of battle
We’d become obsessed with trivia.
At a sentry point, at midnight, in the rain,
An ignorance of baseball could be lethal.

The morning of the first snowfall, I was shaving,
Staring into a mirror nailed to a tree,
Intoning the Christian names of the Andrews Sisters.
‘Maxine, Laverne, Patty.'

from Collected Poems


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