‘Boustrophedon’ by Aidan Everett (Issue 87)

Does the ploughman, reaching the east of his furrow,
lift up the plough and return it to the west
to begin the next? No, he wheels his oxen around
and steers them a notch south –
because furrows are palindromic, and the beasts
must work on if his family are to live.

The ancients ploughed inscriptions. Much easier
to lower the chisel a little than walk back
to the start of your thought. You could reverse the letters
to keep them pointing forward, or tip them
head over heels without a qualm. To read:
fit your eye to the groove and flip your brain.

Printers can do it on paper for first-world reasons,
and some children, without even knowing.
I read of a girl who loved her talent, and kept it
in spite of all pleading by teachers,
for which she’s remembered where they are not.
Her whimsy was to swap hands on the pen.

We might envy the technique, and learn it,
greedy for right-brain credentials; but that’s a sham
unworthy of the spirit of boustrophedon –
which approves the pragmatism of the plough,
the mason’s cheerful agility
and the hand’s instinctive pivot towards its meaning.

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