Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chambers Dictionary

This poem first appeared in Eclipse: A Literary Journal.
[This poem has indents, but I can't remember how to make them show up!]

Because it had a hard green cover,
even though it was tiny, only
two and a half by three inches,
and because my father had carried
it, read it, held it in his breast
pocket for four years, the hard cover
wearing a little at the edges,
and because he had given it to me,
a rare gift,
and because words were our blood
bond, his PhD in structures
of personal cognitive dictionaries,
my inherited trust in the alchemy
of who and why,
and because at seventeen I put it in a box
and sent it to Denver with my college-
bound books,
and because the post office lost the box,
though I looked and asked and wrote,
and he forgave, more he didn’t need
to forgive
because he understood,

since I was alone a thousand miles
from home for the first time
and although or because I didn’t miss home
since or because he wrote me letters
about reading Piaget, grading freshman
(I was a freshman) papers while watching
the Cubs beat the Yankees or Gary
Player win the Masters,
or perhaps because during World War II,
at my age, he memorized the tiny
dictionary, word by word, abacus
to zymurgy,
and because he played with the words
in his diary, with the haughty expression,
of one about to sneeze,
the diary I am now publishing,
and because words are the thread I hold,
the yarn I unravel to knit
twenty-six years (he died in 1982), the dictionary
is as pliable and green
as if I held it still,
and perhaps or because or since or although

they are both lost,
they are both gone,
they are both here.

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