States of Poetry 2017 - ACT | 'Grammar Lesson' by Isi Unikowski

Grammar Lesson

There should be a name for the special case
in which we say ‘the crowd marvelled’,
if the roar that rose
over the back of the stadium walls
over the rain-shingled streets
conveys the sense that what mattered
on the pitch, or the court, happened
in the eyes that watched it;

that indicates a place has changed
for our having stood there
                – in front of the little parish school, say –
sheltering from drizzle and the headlights’ dazzle
under a descant of leaves
the better to watch a harvest moon;

that means the world is trying to tell you something:
not to the undergraduates howling at Halloween,
not to the dog-walkers who look up as they pass, and nod
but to us, as we stand there to marvel
at that red corsage pinned to a foreign sky
above staircases twined
like DNA toward kitchen lights
shining through the transom windows.

Isi Unikowski


The ‘staircases’ in the final stanza might be recognisable as a distinctive aspect of the architecture of Montreal, which my wife Lidia and I visited in late 2015. Beyond that, however, the poem picks up a favourite theme, the nature of perception and its mediation by language and by our significant Others.