The New Hieroglyphics - Poem by Les Murray
In the World language, sometimes called
Airport Road, a thinks balloon with a gondola
under it is a symbol for speculation.
Thumbs down to ear and tongue:
World can be written and read, even painted
but not spoken. People use their own words.
Latin letters are in it for names, for e.g.
OK and H2S O4, for musical notes,
but mostly it's diagrams: skirt-figure, trousered figure
have escaped their toilet doors. I (that is, saya,
Ego, watashji wa) am two eyes without pupils;
those aren't seen when you look out through them.
You has both pupils, we has one, and one blank.
Good is thumbs up, thumb and finger zipping lips
is confidential. Evil is three-cornered snake eyes.
The effort is always to make the symbols obvious:
the bolt of electricity, winged stethoscope of course
for flying doctor. Prams under fire? Soviet film industry.
Pictographs also shouldn't be too culture-bound:
A heart circled and crossed out surely isn't.
For red, betel spit lost out to ace of diamonds.
Black is the ace of spades. The kind of spades
reads Union boss, the two is feeble effort.
If is the shorthand Libra sing , the scales.
Spare literal pictures render most nouns and verbs
and computers can draw them faster than Pharaoh's scribes.
A bordello prospectus is as explicit as the action,
but everywhere there's sunflower talk, i.e.
metaphor, as we've seen. A figure riding a skyhook
bearing food in one hand is the pictograph for grace,
two animals in a book read Nature, two books
Inside an animal, instinct. Rice in bowl with chopsticks
denotes food. Figure 1 lying prone equals other.
Most emotions are mini-faces, and the speech
balloon is ubiquitous. A bull inside one is dialect
for placards inside one. Sun and moon together
inside one is poetry. Sun and moon over palette,
over shoes etc are all art forms — but above
a cracked heart and champagne glass? Riddle that
and you're starting to think in World, whose grammar
is Chinese-terse and fluid. Who needs the square-
equals-diamond book, the dictionary,to know figures
led by strings to their genitals mean fashion?
just as a skirt beneath a circle meanas demure
or ao similar circle shouldering two arrows is macho.
All peoples are at times cat in water with this language
but it does promote international bird on shoulder.
This foretaste now lays its knife and fork parallel.
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