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Poem: "Oxrows" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Oxrows"
This poem came out of the November 3, 2009 Poetry Fishbowl. It was prompted and sponsored by janetmiles.


In the early days
when literacy was still learning itself
the lines were written back and forth:
boustrophedon, “as the ox plows.”

Only in later years
did we learn to unhitch the ox
from the hand, and even then,
some word-farmers went
from left to right
while others went right to left.

All that remains
is a handful of fragments
from before we stopped
plowing our way across a page –
old manuscripts, stone walls,
and the Rongorongo tablets.

Now our eyes
skim across the lines
and then flit back to the margin
to begin again

but we still
keep one eye on the furrow
and the other eye on the horizon.

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3 comments or Leave a comment
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: November 4th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
As a reader of both Hebrew and English, I really like this one.

My father taught me about boustrophedon when I was little, and frequently when I was learning to write backwards as a teenager I would write backwards between the lines.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC) (Link)


I am intrigued by languages that read from right to left. I think they would be fun to try writing -- although I might switch to my left hand for those. (I'm ambidextrous, leaning to right-handed. I suspect if I'd started out writing Hebrew or Arabic, I'd be leaning leftward.)
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: November 4th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

I find that sometimes my hand does feel like it's getting in the way when I write. I haven't trained myself to be able to write with both hands, as I would really like to do. Mostly I just move my hand across the paper in a way that feels inefficient to me. This largely disappears when I'm writing in Hebrew, though I do sometimes get disoriented.
3 comments or Leave a comment