Reporting from the Frontline of the Great Dictionary Disaster

Why has the English dictionary grown so thin?
Why is it weeping between its covers?
Because today is the day
all words of foreign origin
return to their native borders.
Linguists are rioting in the streets.
Crosswords lovers are on hunger strike.
But words are voting with their feet
and familiar objects across the British Isles
have staged a mass evacuation.

have been seen flying off backs
remarking their Innuit tracks.

hands forming a queue
are now bound for a Bantu rendezvous.

leave bodies in mid-swing
and billow back to a Carib beginning.

without regard to size or age
take off on a Hindu pilgrimate.

huddle themselves into caravans,
their destination-the Arabian sands.

Even Baguettes
(as we speak) grab the chance
to jump the channel for the south of France.

This is a tragedy
turning into a comedy
for reports are reaching us by satellite
that in the wee hours of the night
the ghosts of ancient Greek and Romans
have been preparing an epic knees-up
to mark the homecoming of their word-hoard.
Stay tuned fir live and direct coverage
on this day a dictionary mourns its language.

John Agard, “Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems.”

Alternative Anthem

Put the kettle on
Put the kettle on
It is the British answer
to Armageddon.

Never mind taxes rise
Never mind trains are late
One thing you can be sure of
and that’s the kettle, mate.

It’s not whether you lose
It’s not whether you win
It’s whether or not
you’ve plugged the kettle in.

May the kettle ever hiss
May the kettle ever steam
It is the engine
that drives our nation’s dream.

Long life the kettle
That rules over us
May it be limescale free
and may it never rust.

Sing it on the beaches
Sing it from the housetops
The sun may set on empire
but the kettle never stops.

John Agard, “We Brits”.