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I'm learning the subjunctive, mood of choice

once the indicative has slipped away

that seemed to say it all once.  Active voice,

yes, all the tenses—I need those to say

act and remembrance, why and how we live—

but now, subjunctive and conditional

("If that should happen") and obligative

("Let this be said") feel truer than "I shall,

he did, we are," a ripening to speech

spiced and complex and tart, past what I'm sure

of—or was sure of—or set out to reach;

how to acquire a taste for the impure

provisional, that's what I need to know,

before the last imperative says "Go."


Rhina P. Espaillat



© 2000; first published in The Formalist.  Reprinted
by permission of the author.

Background by
Comet Creations

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