Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Nook and Cranny

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Nook and Cranny

Article excerpt

Nook: a comer, the word-book calls it,

especially in a worn. A quiet,

narrow, or secluded spot. A recess.

That red, spine-cracked, handed-down book doesn't mention

simultaneous withdrawal and engagement,

the gathering of blankets about one's knees

in an alpine hikers' hut at seven thousand feet

to play guitar, read Proust, or do the crossword puzzle

while the children play and conversation proceeds.

My ear tells me English filched "cranny," a small opening,

as in a wall or rock-face; a crevice or fissure,

from the Scottish word-hoard. It rings when flicked

like canny, sharp-nosed and flinty

though that same tape-mended book gives its etymology

as Middle English crani, from Old French cran, cren.

Somewhere down the dusty back-roads of that word

carried in synapses and hands and migratory feet,

a peregrine falcon or kestrel-scornful, overweening

bristles in a cranny lined with twigs and debris

and cranes its killer beak out

over a spiraling windy dizziness.

Cranny and nook: outdoors and indoors

of the same word-niche. A keen wind screes

through the twin n 's of cranny,

while nook's bosomy vowels blossom

with the Dutch-kitchenness of loaves from an oven,

rising to meet the soul's desire for enclosure

in the snug of a pub at a crossroads,

not much roomier for leg-stretching and elbow-situating

than a treehouse or child's playhouse

though the view here is all mirrors and bevels,

dark awood, the red and gold and black

of spirit-labels, soft-focused by tobacco smoke. …

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