Was, Not-Was

Was, Not-Was

If I were to say today
If I was,
Would I generate a buzz
At my un-subjunctive ?
I doubt it.
Not to be presumptive,
But the world can live without it.
The less-pedantic folk
Have been dropping weres for years –
Not to provoke,
But only, it appears,
That they never learned a diff’rent way.
And who’s to say that what they say is wrong ?
Their meaning is as clear
To an ever over-fussy ear,
And all thanks to context –
That complex glue that helps us get along.
To make a counter-factual phrase,
They have no need for prissy rules
That sound like strays from olden days –
They do it fine with simple tools,
Without the fuss,
Without the spleen,
And ev’ry single one of us knows wholly they mean.

Don’t weep for changes in our speech –
It changed for you,
In all those words they wouldn’t teach
That once were dangerous and new.
They horrified your grandpapa, of course –
They made him jar, they made him hoarse.
But you knew better than your betters –
Broke the fetters on the Non-U,
Took these immigrants upon you,
Gave them voice and gave them force,
You let them all rejoice
And hoped they stung –
Rolling their illicit letters
Round and round your tongue.

So if I was to use the was
Is it because I like the buzz ?
But then again, perhaps
It’s more an unintended lapse,
And not a careless slur.
Or maybe I prefer
The ever-simple sound of was
I like the way she does,
So let her purr.
If that be all it is,
Or if that is all it be,
Let’s let the was be fancy-free –
As it were…

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