Thursday, May 27, 2010



Apostrophe, misunderstood,
and commonly misused,
I wonder if it makes you sad
or if you are amused.

Although unmoved by plurals
I find it most impressive
that your heart’s unselfish mission
is denoting the possessive.

You’re frequently omitted
and yet you volunteer
to indicate omission;
Ironical? Or queer?

Will we ever understand you
or will you endlessly expose
our imperfect grasp of grammar?
I guess heaven only know’s.

Question Mark

Question mark, who made you?
Why do you loop and drop?
How is it that you always know
When questions need to stop?


Not quite a colon, not quite a comma,
your mark is distinction; you’re given to drama.

You like clauses independent; you link them up like so.
You’re the comma comma calls on when a list requires a pro.

When John, from Jamaica; Frank, from Peru;
and Tim get together, you know what do.

Not quite a comma, not quite a colon,
You wait for the thunder; consider it stolen.


A little dot. So simple, yet
as useful as a speck can get.

A little dot, and yet so great,
to end and to abbreviate.

Some say you’re a decimal,
but I must disagree.
(Perhaps you are – I must admit
that math’s just not for me.)

You are Punctuation, Inc.,
the spot that stops the thoughts I think.

A little dot. So simple, yet
so easy, sometimes, to forget


Comma is that breath you take,
a quiet pause, a little break,
when a new clause has begun
dependant on the other one.

It’s always happy to assist
sort out the items on a list
so we’re not stumped, mixed up, confused
by different things becoming fused.

When in pairs, somewhat like these,
they stand in for parentheses.
“They’re used with quotes,” the scholars say,
“when it’s the object, see? This way.”

Between coordinate adjectives,
after greetings on missives;
your cheerful, sideways smile’s a clue.
Dear Comma, what can you not do?

Quotation Marks

“It’s with pleasure I appear
each time you use a quote, my dear –
direct that is, not paraphrased,
corralling what another says.”

Have you any other quirks?
“well - titles of artistic works,
nicknames and use-mention too -
I act as italics do.”

What about to emphasize?
Is it alright? Is it wise?
“Perhaps, I guess, occasionally-
when words are used ironically.”

I see – now I have the tools.
I “love” all of these grammar rules!
English isn’t all that tough!
“All right, wise guy, that’s enough.”


I went strollin’ with a colon
and we had a little chat
‘bout the way that it could help me
when I’m writin’ this or that.

It can introduce descriptions
or the items in a group
and we had a three course dinner:
lemon cake and steak and soup.

It can introduce an outcome
of a fact that is preceding
so I thanked it for the meal:
colon said that it was treating.

I went bowlin’ with a colon.
Know why that’s its favorite game?
‘Cause it’s two dots down the middle
like two balls in every frame!

[a collection that’s been pieced together over the last couple of years, mainly as catharsis – how is it that, judging from their correspondence, better educated and better compensated professionals seem to be at such a loss when it comes to the basic use of common punctuation marks?]


BloggerMouth said...

Loved this. Great to see your blog again after a painfully long absence.

Julie said...

Hi, Joaquin. I love all of your poems, especially the one about the comma. The quiet pause and little breath is beautiful. These would be great to use in a classroom.

I'm with you when it comes to punctuation marks. It drives me crazy to see poor punctuation on billboards or in company literature. I mean, it's one thing to have poor punctuation in a blog comment. But it's another thing altogether when the setting is supposed to be professional.

Obviously, I included the above sentence about blog comments in case I have made stupid mistakes. Heh.

The sign you have here is both hilarious and frustrating. A fun read!

Sarah Hina said...

I agree with Julie. If I had read these poems in lieu of a textbook back in middle school English, I'd have embraced the rules of punctuation like two snug parentheses. (sorry--couldn't help myself.)

Seriously. These are charming, informative, and funny all at once. I smiled like a comma, all the way through.

(Someone needs to write a song called Comma Chameleon. NOW.)

Anonymous said...

Love it Joaquin, this is perfect for me, I will use it as a reference - I was never that great at all the English grammer and you have compressed it all right here... so, soooo glad you are back.....hope you have a great time off.....bkm

Anonymous said...

Love it Joaquin, this is perfect for me, I will use it as a reference - I was never that great at all the English grammer and you have compressed it all right here... so, soooo glad you are back.....hope you have a great time off.....bkm

joaquin carvel said...

blo-mo - thank you - glad to see you! it's good to be back. i'll be swinging by your place soon.

julie - thanks! it was a kind of a self-imposed challenge to see if i could have the poems illustrate the rules as they went along. and yes - typos in general don't bug me, but when it's supposed to be professional - i just don't know. (my favorite is seeing it in company names, like "all season's landscaping".)

the sign is actually hanging in my doctor's office. kinda scary, huh?

sarah - yep, i need to write one for parentheses too. and hyphens/dashes. and maybe one to let those folks THAT WRITE IN ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME know that they don't need to yell. it's a work in progress.

anyway - thank you. i think i would have had a much easier time learning these than those overly-complicated textbook explanations too.

(comma chameleon? i'm on it. right after i finish "exclamation station", to the tune of conjunction junction.)

bkm - that made my day. i always love to know when someone enjoys a poem, or to hear what they think - but it's extraordinary to hear that one is actually useful. thank you! (i don't like to be away that long, but it was good - happy to be back.)

Karen said...

I don't know how I missed this, but it's (they're) fun and witty and pithy. Poor punctuation, especially the misuse of the apostrophe, is a pet peeve of mine. I recently saw a billboard with a phone number that I called to report a misused apostrophe. You'd think that someone who could pay for a billboard would employ a proofreader!

Julie's right: these would have been great to use in a classroom.

Aniket said...

I admit I'm one of the culprits.
I need to apologize to Mr. Apostrophe.

Have you pitched these to textbook publishers?