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Winter 1999, Volume 16.2


F.J Schaak   photo of F. J. Schaak.

F. J. Schaack (Ph.D., U of Texas, Arlington) has published in Blue Mesa Review, The Seattle Review, Santa Barbara Review, and other journals. He teaches Creative Writing and Humanities in Westwood’s International Baccalaureate Program in Austin, Texas. When not writing or teaching, his six children keep him rather joyously busy.


The Pabulum of Babble

My child is learning to talk,
cute little monosyllables and
words that lose ending in some
blur that has meaning only to
him. He points "That?" We
tell him, both trying to call
it the same thing. Of course,
we understand him better than
anyone else, those not accustomed
to "reee meee bouwk!" He calls
the grackle a "caahh," the car
a "brrummm," but the sky remains
wordless for him (as perhaps it
should for us). Everything is
literal. Nothing left arbitrary,
but sensed and personal and always
labeled with a linguistic eye.
"Drauw meee nayme!" he means
a picture—of Bert & Ernie, or
bat & ball. The power of "name"
becomes the object, as there’s no
room or time for triadic Peircean
referents. Skipping through his
early life, he points and creates
a new world through language, as
if nothing exists until he mouths
it for himself. Everything in our
house, even ourselves and body
parts, has this semiotic Velcro
where the nodes of symbolization
attach and stick and are defined.
Months go by, we play our language
game, as gods creating seven days
a week to the tune of Sesame Street.


A Variation For My Son

here’s to the theme you’ll never know,
since by the time you’re old enough
to read this and know me, I won’t be
me at all, the person who struggled
and wrote cumbersome verses of identity,
this for you
for I’m caught in some Yeatsian spiral
of metamorphous cells who mutiny
into pseudonyms before the signing’s
done, an unwilling chameleon of sorts
or else fickle schizophrenic, harmless
rest assured
if you think rape violates, you should
try being me in me, the stranger who isn’t
invited or even there by the time
I read this, yet a perpetrator well-known
and easily recognized by furtive glances
in the mirror
so I hope the variable you finally
grow to meet, who grows more than youth
in some Heraclitean flux, is at least
a hard memory of the father and clumsy
poet who so loved you, when
he wrote this

Critical Weary

"What we find to work is what we find to work."—Toulmin 2/13/92

Before I say what I’m going to say, first let me
decide the how, across which theoretical fad,
through which tainted, opportunistic lens.
Let me speculate an algorithm for humanity,
using some perverted method of perspective, but
without real relevancy to the pedestrian or
the sublime. Some cure-all to cloud mutual under-
standing in proofs of personal paradigms that
have been shanghaied by the means—i.e., charmed
by the seductive jargon of theory. Such pastime,
confidence, and zealous conviction in critical
methodology without any room or breath left
for the topic, the point, and/or the whole shebang.


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