Affairs of Grammar and Style

Comma splice
Sometimes it’s no coincidence the rain stops falling when the telephone rings. He was
wearing his best suit and tie, eating lamb chops, drinking tonic with only a drizzle of
gin, waiting for a reason to get down on one knee, but the next sentence belonged
someplace else. He sat by the phone hour after rainy hour, day after cloudy day.
Please don’t stop, he said to the rain, please don’t.
On beautiful conjunctions
Not only are you of equal syntactic importance, you have the most beautiful but in the
world. But, she says, and he cuts himself in half on the bottom edge of the sheet
bleeding off the page and then up up and away. Now she turns around and looks up to
what might be a full clause shining away in the sky like a sickle sentence that will
never blunt or break.
Growing sentence pains
She has no language of her own. Forever renting, moving from damp to mould, in the
tax bracket unkind to hand-me-down blankets, baked-bean cans and Wattie’s sauce.
But she isn’t desperate, she is willing to wait for her luck to turn – maybe the state will
start giving new, maybe even repossessed words away to the homeless, desolate,
destitute. She dreams about a small patch, even a postage stamp would do on some
days. There she plants a tree, half-fig, half-noun (n.)
Some of us are neither parrots, says the kookaburra, nor are we here to please.
Excuse my French, exclaims the manager of the circus with an equally exotic name.
Even though his hands were permanently tied behind his back, he wanted to become
a bear hunter. To get better at it, he felt he had to learn to shoot the gun with his hands
twisted back like a tail, which proved to be an impossible task, but he just kept hitting
and missing, hitting and missing. Anyway.
Metric lust
It is more of an afterthought than not. He was a beautiful young rain at the end of
summer. What then can one say about emphasis in an accentual-syllabic way: A man
no longer here, no longer there.
The house on the sharp corner of the present tense
When he comes home from work at first he doesn’t notice the toadstools growing in
their living room. Among them one dandelion refusing to retreat. In the bedroom a
swamp. He quickly closes the door: there is trickery ahead. She follows the toadstools
up and down the room – they are growing in a straight line as if the sun shines only in
the afternoon in that house built on uneven ground shortly before and shortly after their
Semicolon man
He discards his spectacles and immediately looks for a mirror. Hey handsome. Of
course it is blurry in there. All his life he’s had a sharp eye an eye for detail. How he
runs over the edges of his face now, how liberating he thinks. His wife, uncertain,
stares at the bathroom door for the first time in their fruitful life together neither open
nor closed.
Punctuation, my dear Pandora
She is a complicated woman. I carry her in my arms back and forth over the threshold.
She seems to like leaving the door open. Given all the gifts she has already received,
she is a tad older than she looks, though always lighter on the eye.
The life of ellipsis
A tall man sleeps in the closet every night with his feet flat against the door. His wife is
surprised to find him there each morning when she opens it up to air out the linen.
There is no linen inside. Her husband slides out like a foetus unable to stand up. She
rolls him out to the door and gives him two freshly made sandwiches… He says
nothing as he tumbles along.


Aleksandra Lane completed her MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2010, and was awarded the Biggs Prize, which recognises the potential of a graduating poet. Her poems have been published in SwampSnorkelSide Stream and two poetry collections in Serbia, and some will appear in the New Zealand feature issue of the International Literary Quarterly.