About this poet

Alexandra Teague is the author of Mortal Geography (Persea, 2010).

Adjectives of Order

Alexandra Teague
That summer, she had a student who was obsessed 
with the order of adjectives. A soldier in the South 
Vietnamese army, he had been taken prisoner when 

Saigon fell. He wanted to know why the order 
could not be altered. The sweltering city streets shook
with rockets and helicopters. The city sweltering 

streets. On the dusty brown field of the chalkboard, 
she wrote: The mother took warm homemade bread 
from the oven. City is essential to streets as homemade 

is essential to bread . He copied this down, but 
he wanted to know if his brothers were lost  before 
older, if he worked security at a twenty-story modern

downtown bank or downtown twenty-story modern.
When he first arrived, he did not know enough English 
to order a sandwich. He asked her to explain each part 

of Lovely big rectangular old red English Catholic
leather Bible. Evaluation before size. Age before color. 
Nationality before religion. Time before length. Adding 

and, one could determine if two adjectives were equal. 
After Saigon fell, he had survived nine long years 
of torture. Nine and long. He knew no other way to say this.

From Mortal Geography by Alexandra Teague. Copyright © 2010 by Alexandra Teague. Used by permission of Persea Books.

From Mortal Geography by Alexandra Teague. Copyright © 2010 by Alexandra Teague. Used by permission of Persea Books.

Alexandra Teague

Alexandra Teague is the author of Mortal Geography (Persea, 2010).