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About this Poem 

"I was inspired by an Amazonian tribe, the Pirahã, whose language is only of observable experience, and who speak in a kind of prosody, with variations of pitch, stress and rhythm. There are no fixed words for colors; instead they use descriptive phrases that change from one moment to the other. If someone walks around a bend in the river they are xibipio—gone out of experience. Their non-recursive language challenges the established linguistic theories on what is considered uniquely human, and I love that."
—Page Starzinger

Reduction

Page Starzinger

Vestigial leavinges
and fragmentes.

These. However: whole—
         like us
a piecing together;

         Recovered
or a kind of gluing,
like dinosaurs from Hell Creek Formation,
with soft tissue and blood vessels inside
         femurs.

Recursive
is not the point, not even
Chomsky’s theory—embedding entities
within like entities—a tree structure.
Because the most powerful ancient

Amazon cultures, who resist
change, have no stories
for what came before. There, prosody—present tense:
woman winding raw
cotton, child at her feet, singing

a series of notes,
like a muted horn (what
sounds).
         What

is not enough about this? Could we fall prey

to transcendence,
and reduce, to a point that is
fugitive; you are at the tip

of my tongue, then
not. Just like a leaf drifting
out of the picture. It’s called

xibipio
not simply gone,
but out of experience. Of Christ
they ask: Have you met
         him?

Copyright © 2013 by Page Starzinger. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 13, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Page Starzinger. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 13, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Page Starzinger