Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Twenty-Six Luscious Words, or, A Zodiac of the Alphabet

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Twenty-Six Luscious Words, or, A Zodiac of the Alphabet

Article excerpt

1. Amaryllis

This naked lady snares nocturnal moths

At night when nobody sees.

A shepherd girl in Virgils's Eclogues

White with purple veins

though I have seen her boldly crimson.

When she flared in my back yard

I fell hard.

2. Bassoon

Soon rather than later?

But why do its notes seem to lag

As if struggling to emerge from the past?

3. Cinnabar

Toxic because it can yield quicksilver

But nevertheless used for pigments everywhere

And lacquerware during the Song Dynasty.

Doesn't look like a scarlet lady to me;

Looks like a rock. In Spanish it's cinabrio

Which sounds like cheese. But don't eat it.

4 Deuteronomy

Harsh, these sermons by Moses

On Moab before reaching home.

Disobey your parents, you die.

Bastards and castrati, condemned.

Wife not a virgin? Stone her.

But what can you expect after forty years

Of groping in a desert?

5. Eleemosynary

Sounds like a disease-Look Maw,

I've come down with eleemosynary-Or

a species of eel. Or something medicinal.

None of the above! Pertains to charity, alms.

One of the most useless, unneeded words

In the lexicon ... and, thus, one of the most loveable.

6. Fecund (alternate, fetid)

Yeats liked the word ("that most fecund ditch"),

Frog spawn, ripe swollen Creole tomatoes,

Ovaries, semen, Whitman's red jellies,

Lawrence's bursten figs, procreation,

Blossoming youth ... ah, the Big Bang

About to happen ...

(and its alternate means just the opposite!)

7. Gravy

Raymond Carver wrote great fiction

But his poems are pretty good too.

Read the one about gravy if you can find it.

He was in pretty bad shape

When he wrote it

And he knew that the grave

Always follows the gravy.

8. Hallelujah

From Handel to Justin Timberlake!

The only way to know this word

Is to let it roar from your lungs.

Then you're cooking-

Maybe even redeemed!

9. Isosceles

This one sounds like

An ancient Greek tragedian

Who wrote Oedipus Sex.

Save for that odd rib

It would be Equilateral,

Who wrote nothing.

10. Jocund

See it, you think Wordsworth!

Fun to articulate, even type.

But use sparingly, like fuck.

11. Katydid

I knew her in high school

And she didn't.

12. Lachrymal

It even sounds wet.

13. Madeleine

The sweet cakes that sent Proust

Spiraling back to the fecund past.

And Mary, beloved of Christ.

But pronounce it French

(Not the plodding Anglo ma-de-line)

So the syllables trip off your tongue

As if escaping the word.

Also, my final daughter. …

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