;

Neither one thing nor the same
thing all the time, I am the punch
lines of jokes about copy and type, the mark of least use,
the maiden aunt of punctuation.
I feel at home in old formes, amid dust and clutter,
akin to the moths whose wings show my outline,
no good in a crunch.
Educated kids forget my name
or try to turn when, if ever, they would choose
me into a game. I am also accused
of harboring ambitions above my station.

I am still figuring some of that out myself.
I know, though, that I was made to join together
things formerly thought incompatible, to be neither-
nor and both-and; to seek a connection
that does not amount to copulation.
In Greek I simply indicate a question.
I always keep one eye open. I know what I’ve seen.

My siblings-in-arms include the tractor trailer,
platypus, lungfish, merfolk and seaplane.
When challenged about my right
to exist by some precocious reader or editor
who makes my deletion into a helpful suggestion,
I once allowed myself to be struck out;
now, however, I will more likely assert
that I have been around for centuries,
long before anyone asked me to explain.

Stephanie Burt

Bonjour Vietnam