Maybe all vowels were once sister chromatids,
but now we carve grave and caret
on separate word trees.

I can’t read your DNA or lips.
You said my consonants split and replicate,
like cells in tumours.
Writing them makes you stressed.

Possessives are tricky on paper,
so often inked with red. After classes,
ESL students roam cities, see kids
slashing ‘ł’ and ‘ø’ on concrete artistry.
Is that Polish? No.
Paint bleeds.
Later they’ll sit at library PCs,
typing home without familiar glyphs.

Viewpoints online metastasize through hashtag
alphabets, while English pushes diacritics
out of foreign correspondence.
Keyboards are capricious,
and we’re étroit d’esprit
when small things make big shifts.

Hardly anybody knows if these are those,
when articles sound like blips, clitics
slipped from a stranger’s tongue.
I don’t care who’s Pooh or Piglet, use
my words when you play at my house.

Tonight, who gambles with commas, decimals?
We all lose track of cash. Few know how Gauss
advanced the abcs of polynomials,
how numbers hail in a global dialect.
Is that Unicode? No.
Dead keys release mutations the more
we upload symbols.

For a discourse universal, I’d mock-up
binary signs, word combos that (=) or (≠).
Is that fascist? No. It’s abstract logic,
the zone where sentences always
yield satisfactions. 


Emily Osborne is a Canadian researcher, translator and poet, who completed a PhD (Cambridge, UK) in Old-Norse Icelandic poetry and poetics. In 2014-2016, she held a postdoctoral fellowship (UBC) in medieval literature and linguistics. She has published translations of Old English and Old Norse-Icelandic poetry in academic journals and books, and has lectured on literature and poetics at The University of Cambridge and The University of British Columbia. Her poetry is forthcoming in The Literary Review of Canada, and her poem “Brute facts” was chosen as runner-up for the first Fortnight Prize by Eyewear Publishing. Currently, she works as a Project Manager for a research initiative on the opioid overdose and homelessness crisis in British Columbia.