May 6, 2009

Another Poem

I know national Poetry month is over. I never get tired of really great works, however, and this poem made me smile.

Ode on Dictionaries
by Barbara Hamby

A-bomb is how it begins with a big bang on page 
     one, a calculator of sorts whose centrifuge 
begets bedouin, bamboozle, breakdance, and berserk
     one of my mother's favorite words, hard knock 
clerk of clich├ęs that she is, at the moment going ape 
     the current rave in the fundamentalist landscape 
disguised as her brain, a rococo lexicon 
     of Deuteronomy, Job, gossip, spritz, and neocon 
ephemera all wrapped up in a pop burrito 
     of movie star shenanigans, like a stray Cheeto 
found in your pocket the day after you finish the bag, 
     tastier than any oyster and champagne fueled fugue 
 you have been pursuing in France 
     for the past four months. This 82-year-old's rants 
have taken their place with the dictionary I bought 
     in the fourth grade, with so many gorgeous words I thought 
I'd never plumb its depths. Right the first time, little girl, 
     yet here I am still at it, trolling for pearls, 
Japanese words vying with Bantu in a goulash 
     I eat daily, sometimes gagging, sometimes with relish, 
kleptomaniac in the candy store of language, 
     slipping words in my pockets like a non-smudge 
lipstick that smears with the first kiss. I'm the demented 
     lady with sixteen cats. Sure, the house stinks, but those damned 
mice have skedaddled, though I kind of miss them, their cute 
     little faces, the whiskers, those adorable gray suits. 
No, all beasts are welcome in my menagerie, ark 
     of inconsolable barks and meows, sharp-toothed shark, 
OED of the deep ocean, sweet compendium 
     of candy bars—Butterfingers, Mounds, and M&Ms— 
packed next to the tripe and gizzards, trim and tackle 
     of butchers and bakers, the painter's brush and spackle, 
quarks and black holes of physicists' theory. I'm building 
     my own book as a mason makes a wall or a gelding 
runs round the track—brick by brick, step by step, word by word, 
     jonquil by gerrymander, syllabub by greensward
swordplay by snapdragon, a never-ending parade 
     with clowns and funambulists in my own mouth, homemade 
treasure chest of tongue and teeth, the brain's roustabout, rough 
     unfurler of tents and trapezes, off-the-cuff 
unruly troublemaker in the high church museum 
     of the world. O mouth—boondoggle, auditorium, 
viper, gulag, gumbo pot on a steamy August 
     afternoon—what have you not given me? How I must 
wear on you, my Samuel Johnson in a frock coat, 
     lexicographer of silly thoughts, billy goat, 
X-rated pornographic smut factory, scarfer 
     of snacks, prissy smirker, late-night barfly, 
you are the megaphone by which I bewitch the world 
     or don't as the case may be. O chittering squirrel, 
ziplock sandwich bag, sound off, shut up, gather your words 
     into bouquets, folios, flocks of black and flaming birds.

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