David Starkey

Felicity Condition

--for the linguist Heikki Nyyssönen

The time is promising for retirement.
Literacy, as always, is on the wane;

Articulation remains problematic.
Knowledge of language diminishes

Despite his best efforts to make us
Understand its peculiar pathology

And how we might cure it. What
Fricative could the barbarians hiss that he

Couldn’t explain? Where is the glide
And high vowel and rounding that his ear

Couldn’t hear as music? Yet the world
Goes on with its infelicitous ways—

Nothing, finally, is taboo—and we must
Allow him leave to rest after such long work.

We all voice it, now, our gratitude, and hope
for a peace consonant with his heart.