Punctuation like Borders

Recently, I’ve seen writers taking up
the semicolon as a kind of totem.
The comma’s less popular older brother
who’s really into objectivist literature,
WWII specials, and Dungeons & Dragons.
Relic from a past generation, this
plucky punctuation is determined
to stage a comeback.
“Make semicolons great again!”

Its purpose is to signify a silence
more significant than the pause
of a comma, partitioning clauses
as though it were
a wall
a geographical border.

“You stay on your side
I’ll stay on my side.”

Only problem is the two halves modify one another.
Related ideas that are interdependent, neither
can exist without the other. Like trying
to divide a continent,
it is impossible.

In the example:
“Maria and her children
came to America
they were separated
by the US border patrol

The first clause begins the story,
the second ends it.
The first if heard alone
conveys hope,
sounds like the realization of a dream,
makes it seem as if Maria
and her children succeeded;
as if they weren’t separated,
as if Maria’s children weren’t kept
in cages,
as if they weren’t
and sexually assaulted.

The second, if left by itself,
does not capture the hell of separation or
illustrate the horrors of incarceration.
It does not name the victims,
merely casts them as indefinite pronouns –
“they” or “other” –
splitting identities like ICE splits families,

Semicolons have no sympathy
for the things which they divide,
forgetting that sentences
are supposed to stay together,
forgetting there was a time
when all words were one
before punctuation got in between,
before arbitrary lines divided in our minds
the pronouns
“us” and “them”
which only exist without antecedents.

Semicolons have forgotten
they’re meant to represent a continuation,
a spot where the writer
could have ended the sentence but didn’t,
instead bringing together disparate ideas
to create something that is more beautiful,
more complete, more whole,
than either one alone.
Personally, I see no purpose for these
anachronistic constructs of language.
I say we abolish semicolons,
replace them with the word “and.”

Build conjunctions, not punctuations!
Dump semicolons!
End linguistic separation!
and then, who knows,
maybe the whole sentence
can be rewritten.

DJ Leary (he/him) is a traveling poet and writer of short fiction. Occasionally, you can find him posted up on a street corner composing impromptu poems for strangers. He owns three typewriters and one cat named Jack. Look him up on social media @wordsbydj

This poem previously appeared in The Deadbeat Poets Zine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: