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Rising Irritation at Rising Intonation

Some people talk, not to, but at me. When they reach
a pausing place, why must they take
the fluctuation of their voices up a semitone?
Perhaps they’re checking I’m awake?
Why will they end
each fragment of their tedious, their monologic drone
— the habit nearly drives me round the bend —
with that insistent and enraging question mark in speech?

Whence has this plague, this phatic infestation, sprung?
Australia is to blame, some say.
Whoever is at fault, the virus now lurks everywhere
in our linguistic DNA.
No thought once said
is left to hang unbuttressed in the intervening air.
Each must now be affirmed, accredited,
lest it should drop into oblivion, unwept, unsung.

I hope, like fashions otherwhere that come and go
(in music, haircuts or in dress),
this plaintive ‘Are you with me?’ tendency will one day pass,
so speakers may again express
a thought, a need,
without this constant checking in an oral looking glass,
this nervous tic obliging them to plead
for reassurance from a listener like me. You know?