Where to step a comma ,
to tiptoe haltingly ,
without readers tripping over it ,
losing their way.
A comma pirate drops his
as if it had a special purpose ,
a bouncing buoy ringing a bell ,
a porpoise out all alone.
The comma critic , well-versed
in elementary particularity ,
vacuums up all the fallen commas ,
the mote dust off a linoleum floor.
The exclamation point shouts ,
a telephone pole poised atop
a bowling ball !
While the ear shaped question
mark asks the obvious ,
ad nauseam ,
Is the comma in danger of extinction? Here at the The Coming of the Toads commas have fallen out of favor as we have begun to eschew the common comma, not all commas, and the comma in writing (where else is it used?) still remains an effective tool for the common reader, but sometimes the right word in the right place creates its own pause and nothing more is needed by way of punctuation, for the common reader or the anti-reader. Of course commas are used for more than to create pause. The comma used to separate items in a series, red white and blue, for example, often punctuated as red, white, and blue, keeps the colors from running together. The comma evolved from the colon and suggested something cut out but today the comma is used to add on, to amplify, to continue, to ramble on, sometimes unmercifully, the end nowhere near, the sentence a structure of lean-tos, each clause flipping about like a butterfly which may look to the common reader indecisive. Then there is the comma butterfly, also called angelwing, and what writer would want to eliminate angel wings from their writing, not us. Whoops, that’s anglewing, not angel wing, a mistake no comma can rescue. Still, the happy discovery that commas may suggest angel wings gives us a lift.
The comma, which gives one pause; the comma which does not give one pause; the comma, at which point one pauses; the comma, a cockroach in the corner of the closet after all the clothes are cleaned out and the conversations are forgotten, hollow and cold; the comma that defies erasure, the comma that sticks; the comma that permits addition but sometimes subtracts; the comma a foot soldier, a drone wearily drove, the first key to fade; the comma a banana peal only a curmudgeonly grammarian with scruples would slip on; the comma a red light where turning right on the red without stopping is ok; the commas lined up like cars waiting for the ferry to return to cross over to the islands:
,,; ,, ,,; ,, ,,; ,, ,,; ,, ,,; . . . . . .
Scamble: I met a comma at the bus stop this morning. … Did you hear what I said? I said, I met a comma, at the bus stop, this morning.
Cramble: Be wary of commas. They’ll be on you like fleas.
-Did you know the apostrophe is the feminine form of comma?
-Band of punctuation pirates, the lot of them. Some witch of an exclamation point once hexed me into a pair of parentheses.
-Yes, life is hard enough without being labeled a parenthetical expression.
-Imagine impossible to break away from the vice grip of your parents.
-The bus stop comma seemed a cool enough little fellow.
-What was he up to?
-Just pausing, to say hello.
-I once dated an apostrophe, a beach volleyball aficionado, as I recall.
-Cool comma wasn’t going to the end of the line, Line 15, though, where the periods have apparently gentrified the neighborhood, the so-called Pearl District.
-No more comma splices. A few fragments, still.
-What’s the point of periods, anyway? We never really stop we get up and go again. He got off at the very next stop, the cool comma did.
-Why I prefer the express bus no all of that stop and go busyness biz.