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To grasp the relation of words to matter, if that relation isn’t identity, but the distance between two languages. He argues with characters in the one (as Father leans over a shoulder). The other an import—our last surplus, lexicon—whose clarity is photographic. English, like the shopkeeper, is ordinary. We brought him the requested whiskey, then found it in Kathmandhu. Another airplane just flew by, she said, in imitation. It’s a question of translation, the scholar says, but for her it was one of substitution. English was her mother once removed, as am I. But what is a scheme? I ask on the way to school. She can spell the sch words—she owns one now—but the schooner’s leaving the dock and we’re not on deck. We’re at the pee pee spot, making waves.
For Ranjan Adiga
–29 April 2011