Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart by Andrea Cohen Greyber

The following poem originates from our Healthy Aging creative writing class that meets every Thursday.

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Yeats had it right, of course. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Venice is under water. Australia is on fire. White tigers are in danger while squirrels thrive, reproduce, and damage everything in their paths, particularly in my yard. (I sprinkled cayenne pepper on my succulents and now sneezing squirrels run all over San Jose).

So what can I do? What do I have control over? I realize that perhaps English grammar is not as serious a concern as the natural disasters facing our planet but I do have control over it in a way.  I am innocently walking past the television when a new message catches my eye. It is an advertisement from Bayer aspirin, the company which recently purchased Monsanto. Maybe the Roundup fumes are affecting the brains of the advertising executives over at Bayer.  The commercial is aimed at older people and extols the work Bayer is doing to extend the heart health of seniors. At the end of this ad they say, “At Bayer, this is why we science.” What! Science has been functioning nicely forever as a noun —who said that it could be a verb? Like nails on a blackboard, my teeth begin to ache, my eyes tear and my soul feels split in two. Bayer has got it wrong. Why aim an ad at seniors who learned grammar and practice its rules by trashing the language?

 I imagine that the so, so clever, young advertising staff got together and thought up this desecration of the English language.  I see high fives all over the room as they exit, go for beers, burgers and fries and slouch toward a place in the future where beasts prevail and there is no shame.

I cannot give up. I call Bayer. I am put through to a woman whose first language is clearly not English. We have a long pleasant chat during which I attempt to explain to her that although my late husband was a scientist, he did not “science”. As an astrophysicist, he engaged in scientific research in an attempt to understand the universe. But science is not a verb; it is a noun. I fear that this woman does not share my concerns but I leave her my email address and receive a missive from the company. Bayer explains that they want to tell us of the “product’s attribute of efficacy in a way that is memorable.”  Huh? I attempt to parse this sentence but fail. I shall remember this ad and in the future I will only purchase generic aspirin.

It isn’t over of course. On the television there was an ad for “Let’s pizza”. And in a magazine there was an ad for the Container Store –this is the way we holiday! And now Target chimes in  “this is how we holiday”; Bigelow tea asks us to “tea proudly”.  Another company suggests that we “summer safely!” And now the United States Postal Service has an advertisement for business owners: built for how you business. They are charging more for stamps, why could they not spend a few pennies for “do”, a short word…

It is over. Armageddon has arrived.