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0 Comments | Oct 31, 2020

Perekladin’s Nightmare

Anton-Chekhov-largeThe grammar gods begrudge us

only the tiniest quiver

of punctuation marks

to assert our meaning.

To stop, or pause,

to set off one word against another.


But of all the weapons

in this thinnest of armories,

there is just one

that admits of emotion,

allows the writer to enthuse,

to leap up, cry out,

exclaim with a loud voice.


And though this humble mark

pervades the speech of everyday—

the shout of each playing child,

and each hovering parent—

it is this same modest mark

that, appearing upon the page,

evokes only contempt and derision,

condemns the aspiring scribe

to the ranks of amateur,

mocked by copy editor

and reader alike.


And yet, from time to time,

despite the risk of cajole and mockery,

I let one sneak in, if only

to catch the reader napping,

to rattle the windows a bit

and let the world know

that there remain in this world

things which, though perhaps rare,

are still worthy of exclamation!



Brian Kenneth Swain


Based on a Chekhov short story (The Exclamation Mark starring Yefim Perekladin) parodying “A Christmas Story” in which the protagonist is haunted by a series of punctuation marks, culminating in the appearance of phantom exclamation marks that underlie the lack of excitement in Perekladin’s life.

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