The Electrical Dictionary of Melancholy Absolutes

An Online Poem by Mary McCray
A dictionary in progress

(November 2021 - )
Last updated: May 25, 2022

"Send me my dictionary.
Write how you are."
     —Michael Palmer

 

 

Peacock noun 'pé-käk
From Merriam-Webster
1. a male peafowl distinguished by a crest of upright feathers and by greatly elongated loosely webbed upper tail coverts which are mostly tipped with iridescent spots and are erected and spread in a shimmering fan usually as a courtship display, 14th Century
2: one making a proud display of oneself, 1818

syn. show-off
hotdog, rooster
showboat

Often associated with women
in the 21st Century
but a cock must do it,
attracts a relatively unadorned
dole of females
whom often coo "very nice!"
from a distance.

The explosion of feathers is less desirable
in intimate habitats.

(Isn't that amazing?
It's like physics or something.)

Use in a sentence:
If you're going to peacock,
please stand in the kitchen.

 

(Becoming a) poet noun po-ət
From Merriam-Webster
2. one (such as a creative artist) of great imaginative and expressive capabilities and special sensitivity to the medium, from Greek

To define a poet;
Why does a girl become a poet?
Likely because of a boy
(or sometimes because of a girl).

Subcategory to the definition of Love

My mother's use in a sentence:
If you're becoming a poet
please do that outside.

 

Love noun 'ləv
From Merriam-Webster
1. a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person, from Latin

A feedback loop generating irony.

 

Irony noun 'í-rə-né
From Merriam-Webster
2. a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected, from Greek

Where it started.
Where it is now.

Vocational irony.
Or as my mother would say,
Avocational irony
because I'm not making any money.

 

(Becoming a) poet noun po-ət

Outlet
Egress
Redemption.

 

Definitions added November 9, 2021


Stir Up phrasal verb
The Oxford Dictionary
1. to encourage somebody to do something; to make somebody feel they must do something, 15th Century
2. to make something move around in water or air

"Stir It Up," 1985 Patti LaBelle song

syn. agitate, enflame, ignite, disturb, set off
wind up, fire up, roil

alt syn. to make buoyant,
to cause to swim,
to float

Use in a sentence:
This is on my bucket list.
I mean to see Patti Labelle live.
(But also, yes).

 

Marginalia plural noun mär-jə-'nà-lé-ə
From Merriam-Webster
1. marginal notes or embellishments (as in a book), 1819, New Latin

Talking back to the Void of Words

A disappointment to find
in a used or library book
because really
who cares what you have to say?

 

Void noun vóid
From Merriam-Webster
1. empty space. emptiness, vacuum
2. the quality or state of being without something
3. a feeling of want or hollowness

Where all marginalia ends up,
where the marginalized will go,
a place with no people or things,
an electro-magnet of nothingness
and melodrama

 

Paper noun pa-pər
From Merriam-Webster
1. a felted sheet of usually vegetable fibers laid down on a fine screen from a water suspension, 14th Century Greek

in theory, in writing,
as in "on paper this seemed like a good idea"
or as in "get it on paper because in theory…
who's to say?"

pulp, biology,
full of the invisible knowledge
of evergreen conifers, bamboo,
cotton, hemp or jute.

Easy to burn,
easy to drown.

Perishable,
but not as perishable
as where these words
are written from
or to.

 

Definitions added November 9, 2021


Pareidolia noun per-í-'dò-lé-ə
From Wikipedia
1. the tendency for perception to impose a meaningful interpretation on a nebulous stimulus, usually visual, so that one sees an object, pattern, or meaning where there is none, German, 1960s

Matrixing in ghostbusting nomenclature,
making meaning from pure noise.

There are many dangerous applications
for matrixing:
religion, astrology, astronomy,
the general sciences,
ghost hunting,
affection, sentiment,
taking umbrage...

 

Anomaly noun ə-'nä-mə-lè
From Google Dictionary
1. something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected

Unexplainable, (often misapplied),
a cold spot in the data,
a manifestation in the story,
an entity that often takes
a medium to see,
ghosts drifting into the findings.

 

Bury the Lead phrase
alternatively, bury the lede
From Google Dictionary
1. to fail to emphasize the most important part of a story or account.

Use in a sentence:
This is a hard lead to bury,
like a zombie.

My old friend, formerly a newspaper reporter
from Upstate New York,
once told me I always bury the lead
which is part of my mischief.

Maybe so but there are many ways
to tell a story. Don't all whodunits
bury the murderous lead,
the secret deeply entombed?

It's how we tell our own story...
to ourselves.

But so says Søren Kierkegaard,
there are two ways to be fooled:
one is to believe what isn't true,
the other is to refuse to believe what is true.

There is anxiety in the purgatory
between skepticism and the uncanny,
a playground of gloomy seesaws
and never-ending swings.

The lead will be alright.
The lead sees ahead
and behind.

Like when I was fifteen
and came across a picture of someone
I recognized but had never met.

Burying the lead turns out to be easy.
You can talk around a thing forever
like two children circling around
a merry-go-round.
It's easy. You could take it
to the grave.

 

Definitions added November 15, 2021


Mesa noun má-sə
From Merriam-Webster
1. an isolated relatively flat-topped natural elevation usually more extensive than a butte and less extensive than a plateau, 1840, Spanish

Miles of grass up there
where in the almost-night
the outlines of cholla
look like very quiet cows
and a red moon rises up
over the edge where it has climbed
up the walls from the valley,
and it bears down on us
like an elevated,
intractable emotion.

And Mary's little lambs
sprawl across the altar,
the sacramental table
narrow and long beneath
the bread of that moon
red with blood
and the lambs wander
over the train's berm
one by one by one.

 

Mosquero proper noun Mahs-kehr-oh
From the Village of Mosquero, Wikipedia, memory
1. Town of 93 people in Harding County, New Mexico. Founded in 1908 by Benjamin Brown who set up a water stop on the Polly, the Dawson railroad spur of the Southern Pacific. Means 'swarm of flies' from the flies that were drawn to the buffalo carcasses hunted by Indians in the area: Comanche, the Llaneros branch of the Jicarilla Apache and, sometimes, the Kiowa.

Its ancient fingers are canyons
spilling water down into Bell Ranch,
where drives of cows come up
over the caprock and the flying priest
prays over the dead.
The flies circle their rot
with the buzz of angels.

We were driving the mesa
when I opened a chocolate wrapper
and, just like in a movie,
there was a golden treasure inside.

"If thou must love me"
love me for the flies.

 

Cholla noun chȯi-yə
From Merriam-Webster and Wikipedia
1. Cylindropuntia fulgida, a shrubby opuntias chiefly of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico that have needle-like spines partly enclosed in a papery sheath and cylindrical joints, 1846, Mexican Spanish

Tenaciously, microscopically barbed,
wart-like, scaling, thick,
wasting away in the wind
to a vascular, prickly hollow,
singing like a fibrous woodwind,
painful to embrace.

My great-grandfather,
from Mosquero among other places,
asked my father one summer
to cut down all the cholla
out at the Solano ranch
and my father told me
that as he was axing down all the cactus
he realized he was probably just spreading
many more cholla seeds and creating
many more cholla to cut down tomorrow.

 

Counting Sheep phrase
From Wikipedia
1. a mental exercise as a means of putting oneself to sleep. From Don Quixote (goats), 1605

My great-grandfather,
from Mosquero among other places,
was known for saying two things:
never tell a story twice
unless you can improve upon it
each time;

And he said he hated sheep farmers
with their insatiable sheep,
but there was only one way
to get rid of sheep and that was updated Nov, 30 2021
to eat the damnable things
one by one.

Use in a sentence:
the shepherdess is counting sheep
down in the meadows
under the blood-red moon
that clips the mesa;
and with patience,
with patience, we will sleep.

 

Definitions added November 22, 2021
composed at The Rectory (Mosquero, New Mexico)


Enigmatic adjective e-nig-'ma-tik
From Merriam-Webster
1. relating to or resembling an enigma, mysterious, 1609, Greek
Syn. arcane, cryptic, impenetrable, inscrutable, mysterious, mystic, uncanny

foggy, unclear, why don't you just say what you mean?

willfully obtuse like the 274 steps
of the Chambord staircase
in a double-helix
straight from da Vinci's mind,
how it spirals and spirals
around a glimpse of a face
in the atrium's descending light,
two faces never to meet on the same steps
until they reach hell or heaven.

 

Bird in hand (is worth two in the bush) proverb
From Merriam-Webster, The Phrase Finder
1. used to say that it is better to hold onto something one has than to risk losing it by trying to get something better, medieval, one of the earliest proverbs in English

My mother is ruthless in Blackjack.
She pulls no punches and knows the pivot
between knowing when to deal
and when to stand,

when to bust.

She taught a good friend of mine
who sits at the tables of Vegas
now from time to time, doubling down.

But she could not teach me
what is basically a game
of bird in hand,
a game for those who won't settle
for one, but who would settle for none.

The bird I am
in hand and in the bush,
the birds you have in hand
so sweet and serene.

What you have so far is good.
What you have so far can suffice
because you can take it with you
right now and be released.

 

Sonnet noun sä-nət
From Merriam-Webster
1. a fixed verse form consisting of 14 lines that are typically 5-foot iambics rhyming according to a prescribed scheme, 1555, Italian

Use in a poem:
The world comforts me in moving ways:
roadside honeysuckle blooming with chance,
willow reeds by the river in a swoon of romance,
the dulcet voice down the street starting to raise
itself over the gate, filling this courtyard of days updated Dec 6, 2021
with a brilliant, neon pavilion of circumstance.
There is the fuss of an impervious, waltzing dance
with its clandestine whispers of praise within a phrase.
But if that is all we are strong enough to bear—
the world comforts me with its crisp, fall light,
autumn's swarm of red and yellow prophets.
Beyond the porch light, raindrops fall like prayer
all through the night of everything will be alright,
snug in our armada of verses and a fleet of sonnets.

 

Definitions added November 29, 2021


Extended Metaphor rhetorical device
From Wikipedia
1. An extended metaphor, also known as a conceit or sustained metaphor, is an author's exploitation of a single metaphor or analogy at length through multiple linked tenors, vehicles, and grounds throughout a poem or story.

An apparatus, you could say
art itself, like cloaks of invisibility,
who wouldn't want one?

But you'd soon be sorry you had it
whenever you wanted to be seen.

You'd be sorry you had it,
soon as you saw too much.

 

Aim verb 'am
From Merriam-Webster
1. to direct a course
2. to aspire, intend
3. to point
14th century, from Latin

This that follows is a parable
but it's also a true story.
It just so happens
some parables can also be true.

Once when I was at sixth-grade camp
the counselors led us from the rippling lake,
past the fragrant woods until we crested a hill
to find a row of targets on stands.

And right away I thought, ‘Oh crap,
I could be swimming in the lake.
The last thing I want to do, like ever
in my whole damn life, is archery.'
Here is where we'd have to spend hours
learning something new.
What a Wednesday disaster.

The bows were large and awkward
and the first few arrows the whole class threw
fizzled out on the grass far short of anybody's targets.

But soon I was hitting bullseyes one after the other.
I vanquished three whole classes of eleven-year olds.
I even had to sit through a ceremony at the end of the week
and get an award for it. I was a natural, obviously,
never having touched a bow and arrow before.

And there's no Indian or Turkish memory
of slaying foes and sluggish bison,
no helpful particulars of a past life to explain it.

Later in a high-school gun class, (it was Missouri),
it happened again. And then in a California gun-safety seminar,
it happened again, this punctilious, geometric aim.

What a random, anachronistic, useless skill this was,
how little if fit into anything I was doing.

But no matter how nonsensical it now seems,
no matter how charming or frustrating it is considered,
no matter the dopamine hits that come and go,
it never goes away, this plight of luck.

Whether it builds me up or tears me down,
it never goes away. It is, simply, what it is.

And I tell you this now, no matter what it is I think about it
and no matter what it is you think about it,
nothing goes away. No matter what I do;
no matter what you do.

The aim of it may turn out to be my own demise
in the end, but even then
it probably won't go away.

And on some days, that idea levies
a kind of peace on things, a kind of truce.


Fortitude noun 'fór-tə-tüd
From Merriam-Webster
1. mental strength and courage that allows someone to face danger, pain, etc. 12th century, from Latin

What one must have
to endure parables.

 

Irresistible adjective ir-i-'zi-stə-bəl
From Merriam-Webster
1. impossible to resist, 1597, medieval Latin

Turns out, some definitions are not very helpful,
particularly when defining a thing using its own self.

And I think a good definition of irresistible
would be handy for a lot of us,

speaking for myself. What it is,
where it's located, how to box it,

contain it, ignore it. Those would be
handy things, yes? How to ward it off

during inappropriate occasions.
But I guess if I had to define it

I would say this: it is a body
moving through time in a way

that is uniquely amenable to my body
which is also moving through time.

But that definition isn't very good.
It has no mention of his eyes

or the handsomeness of his face.
And it doesn't describe the force of it,

the uncategorizable, un-placeable
ultimately un-boxability of it.

I wish I could say more about that.
I wish I could.

 

Definitions added November 30, 2021



Plausible Deniability term
Wikipedia
1. Plausible deniability is the ability of people, typically [politicians], to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by members of their organizational hierarchy. They may do so because of a lack or absence of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions.

Love has its own weather of flurries and blizzards
and this idea is a shelter of sound stone,
a refuge that makes its politician untouchable,
a strategy deployed when encountering something
confounding or frightening.

You can see it working in others
or in yourself,
from a similar inner organizational hierarchy
with all the other selves.

Like a gaslight in the darkness,
a deceit of the heart,
the ego’s grand perjury,
just another gullible consequence
of pride, like any other armor.

Or winter coats and taking off those coats
on the terraces of risk and exposure.
Some people just have many more coats than others.

 

Sweet adjective 'swet
Merriam-Webster
1. being, inducing, or marked by the one of the five basic taste sensations that is usually pleasing to the taste and typically induced by sugars (as sucrose or glucose), from Latin
2. marked by gentle good humor or kindliness
syns: saccharine, cloying
3. Much loved, dear
4. As a phrase: Sweet On: having a crush on

“Sweet, sweet Mary,”
said my father’s old boss
from the 1970s when he remembered
me as sweet, sweet five.

Mother always said it like a spell
like bringing a wish into being:
“Mary, you’re such a sweet girl,”
ergo sweet girls do not do
this thing you are doing.

Marys full of contraction.
Typhoid Mary, Blessed Mary
Bloody Mary, Mary Richards
Mary Hartman, Mary, Mary,
Quite so Mary,
quite, quite so Mary,
unbearably sweet,
willful and wary.

Aspires to be less sugary,
aspires to be adorable,
worthy of adoring.

 

Melody noun 'me-lə-dé
Merriam-Webster
1. a sweet or agreeable succession or arrangement of sounds, 13th Century, from Greek

Part I. If You Know What I Mean

My mother was arguing with me about crooners;
she said Neil Diamond was better than Barry Manilow
and then my father got involved and they both started
arguing with their 12-year-old about melodies and orchestrations;
and me thinking I don’t even know if the three of us
can live together in the same house anymore.

But then secretly after dinner some nights
I played all her Neil Diamond records
many times over and I remember
the streetlight coming in through the front window
making the room feel like my idea of a speakeasy.

I would meditate on the gatefold record cover
and imagine what the beautiful noise meant
long before I had been through the trials
of all those words.

Part II. Desirée

It was this bodice-ripper
that was in my imagination
when the Belgian Mr. X.
gave us a list in French class.
Everyone was to choose new names
and I was surprised no other girl picked the one
before my turn came. The Belgian approved,
never a given with him and me.
And I can still hear him saying my name.

Part III. America

I was also 12 when my mother announced she was taking me
to my first live performance with a gang of her office friends.
Neil Diamond was playing the Checkerdome,
so called for the checkered logo of Ralston Purina.

The show was pretty much like the panache in the finale
of his movie The Jazz Singer. The office ladies
conspired to find the backstage door after the show
and ‘pants’ Neil Diamond, which I took to mean devour.

As if you could find that door in such a building.

They all agreed he had a nice ass. And I thought,
well I haven’t seen a lot of asses yet, but I guess okay, sure.

Years later, Chrissy, Julie and I all got drunk and over-glittered
in a Madison Square Garden bathroom before his show.
Chrissy screamed “Brooklyn represents!” walking to our seats.
Years after that I met an ex-boyfriend at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
He gave me mea culpas in a Mar Vista bar later that night.

My mother gave me all her Neil Diamond records years ago.
I wonder sometimes how she can live without them.
My heart is not a very good muscle, as they go;
I can’t even bring myself to give away records that aren’t mine.
My heart is a poor muscle, all things considered, more like
a chamber of melodic noise–ethereal, anthemic and vibrating.

 

 

Definitions added December 13, 2021


Conjugate verb 'kän-jə-gát
Merriam-Webster
1. to give in prescribed order the various inflectional forms of —used especially of a verb, 1530, from Latin
2. to join

Last week I sent an electronic missive
with the exciting string of words
“have had has”—
those permutations of time
running along together
like any sporting verb
conjugating itself.

To conjugate
sounds not-so-vaguely erotic.

Flirty words, minxy words,
my words in your mouth.

Is that really what it is?

We all have the same words
after all, (what are yours
and what are mine?),
words that can time-travel
and interlace their fingers
through this,
another golden year.

 

Superfluous adjective sú-'pər-flü-əs
Merriam-Webster
1. exceeding what is sufficient or necessary, not needed, unnecessary, 15th Century, from Latin
2. marked by wastefulness, extravagant

It was Christmas when Scrooge invoked
what was in his heart and vowed
to live in the Past, Present and Future.
Those entanglements a string of moments
like snowflakes floating down on trees;
they come and melt away, come and melt away.
And we remember them like wishes.

And I think about all the ravishing superfluous
beyond the melting snow of an instant in time,
the overwhelming glacier of the superfluous,
the silent wanting of the sleeping trees and hills.

To stay with this heart for a few more minutes;
it is feeling. This is feeling, this frostbite sentence;
hoarfrost that cannot help the way the world tilts
around the sun. He is one who understands
when I’m drifting, listing away,
and he holds out his hand
for me to land.

To stay there,
until we lose all these fingers
and stop breathing.

 

Requited transitive verb ri-'kwi-təd
Merriam-Webster
1. to make return for, repaid
2. to make suitable return to for a benefit or service or for an injury, 15th Century, Middle English

Interpreted as a remit, as in a repayment,
as in how to repay this,
this that goes so far back into the decades
or maybe even centuries of self-definition?
Definitions to repay definitions.
The cities I have lived,
the doors I opened like prizes,
the words I have carved into Davids,
apparitions I have conjured,
how I have become bigger than myself
and summoned ice-spangled castles
inadvertently. A humble ball of snow
escalating down a beautiful slope
and before long an avalanche of debt,
a burying debt, an indebtedness deferred
to a forthcoming me, a someday me
then and there, flush and bountiful for you.


Definitions added December 20, 2021


Purview noun 'pər-vyü
Merriam-Webster
2. the range or limit of authority, competence, responsibility, concern, or intention, Middle English
3. range of vision, understanding, or cognizance

1. Kingdom

When I was about nine years old
my father and uncle announced one day
only boys could go out to the family ranch in Solano,
a valuable invitation mostly in that it guaranteed
a ride in the back of my grandfather’s yellow truck.

This meant my two brothers and little Burt would be going
but not me or Erin, four years older
and the cousin I followed around like a puppy.

So while the boys were gone,
Erin taught me the phrase
“male chauvinist pig.”

And I can tell you
I really ran with this one.

It was a slander that really got under the skin
of my oldest brother who spent a lot of time and energy
trying to lay down rules in the absence of our parents.

And I would hurl out this phrase
during inappropriate oppressions,
like just being told what to do, being sat on,
tickled, teased, tormented or generally siblinged.
The phrase would infuriate him, mostly because
he didn’t like being called a pig
by a little shit.
Neither of us knew what chauvinism meant.
But one of us knew that boys asserting authority
could not stand, especially when they had
no
        vested
                       agency.

After all, who made him the King of Anything?
Who gave him a say
over me?

Opinions, man.

2. Boss of Me

“You’re not the boss of me”
also came out of my mouth a lot.

But regrettably I have come to see
I’m not even the boss of myself.
I’m not running anything here.

As if a lifetime has stood right up in my face and

yeah.

3. In Control

Sometimes I feel like I’m riding a boat without any oars
or rudder or motor or jurisdiction or bottom.

And all the schemes and all the strategies and rationally itself…

well, bless your soul.

 

Steer transitive verb and noun 'stir
Merriam-Webster
1. (verb) to control the course of, direct, especially to guide by mechanical means (such as a rudder), 12th century
2. (verb) to set and hold to (a course)
1. (noun) a male bovine animal and especially a domestic ox castrated before sexual maturity, 12th century

Is it a coincidence the verb steer
is also the same word
for the castrated male,
as if the act of steering a man castrates him?

Which makes me wonder then
if mansplaining causes infertility.

One of my close friends, besides being a lesbian,
says things to be funny like “who needs boys?”
and “what good are boys?”
and the nine-year old in me wants to agree
wholeheartedly: “Yeah! Stinky, smelly boys!”

But then I remember things have become
much more complicated.

 

Gray Adjective 'grá
Merriam-Webster
4. lacking cheer or brightness in mood, outlook, style, or flavor, prosaically ordinary, dull, uninteresting, Old English
5. having an intermediate and often vaguely defined position, condition, or character

I am lost; I am not lost.
I am navigating the lostness
to see where it goes.

What this is is neither black or white.
This is primordial gray. The prime ordeal.
The inconsolably heavy unsaid.
We are entrenched in the gray
and lonesome for color.

 

Definitions added December 23, 2021



Thesaurus noun thi-'sór-əs
Merriam-Webster
1.b a book of words and their synonyms, from Greek

I haven’t mentioned much about him yet.
I find it hard to capture him with letters.
But I was in a high-school poetry class
at the time he was fixing a car or a machine
and he was heading out to the bookstore
to find a tome of schematics, something
to explain the machines and the world.

He came to my bedroom door
and asked me if I needed anything.

My syllabus listed a book called a thesaurus.
He returned with Roget’s International,
Fourth Edition, Harper & Row, one-thousand,
three-hundred and seventeen pages
that have delighted me for years, fed hundreds
of poems and solved my malapropisms
and retrieval errors with polysyllabic accidents;

and as my heart was breaking that year
into disintegrating wordlessness, the indexes
and categories led me to the miraculous
hidden roads only browsing in brokenness can find.

The book is thirty-five years old now
and has a black cover that is peeling
and pages that are curling up at the corner.

He is not always a wordy fellow
and his affections are subtle
and sometimes a secret
between us.

But I’m using all the 256,000 words
he gave me

to speak to you now.

 

Suspension noun sə-'spen(t)-shən
Merriam-Webster
2.b the state of a substance when its particles are mixed with but undissolved in a fluid or solid, from Latin

Pain is not like a flower
breaking through a hard crust
of damp earth and into the crisp air
of reality, dirt falling off the green.

More like an underwater blossom,
spreading thick and dark
through the effluence, suspended
and slightly flickering.
No gravity, no pressure,
but almost a release of pressure
for a string of blooming moments.

If you have felt it
in your chest like a medallion
or in your throat like a sprocket,

you will have seen the paradox
like the absurd jellyfish,
the form of pleasure
is the very same shape.

 

In the Soup idiom
Merriam-Webster, The Week
1. in a bad situation, in trouble, American slang, 1889

Surely better to be out of such things,
in maybe easier soups, soups less soupy.

The path of fewer brambles,
the less traveled quagmire,
uncertainties we can live with.

What you choose to do,
what forces to align with,
what is good,
what is not good,
all the stalemates
that hang between us
in the air, the ether, the open
airwaves, the zephyr, the firmament,
the blue biosphere, the vapor,
smoke and mist,

all these things
that have no words...

 

Definitions added January 24, 2022


(after watching Encanto)

Hacienda noun (h)ä-se-'en-də
Merriam-Webster and Bob Villa
1. a large estate especially in a Spanish-speaking country, circa 1772, Old Spanish

Enamored with my brother’s flair for French
words and the spell of a city of light
in my young susceptibility, I struggled
for years through silent vowels
and le subjonctif. And looking back
maybe I should have taken Spanish
instead. After all, I knew plenty
of Spanish words already:
tortilla, enchilada, huevos rancheros.

And there was already something
Hispanic in the marrow of me
having been born from the womb
of Nuevo Mexico, from the tile and dirt
and the thick, undulating walls
and the dream of a hacienda
enchanted with wraparound rooms

and a center

full of air and moon.

 

Haunted adjective hôn(t)əd
Oxford Languages from Google
1. a place frequented by a ghost, 14th Century from Old French
2. having or showing signs of mental anguish or torment

We say ‘¡Hola casa!’ to a house
who wants to be seen.

Air and atmosphere
with something to say.

Walls that tick and pop for attention.
Music floating in from empty rooms.

Veins of a house where animals move
and sometimes die.

A presence in the dark, footsteps
from the whole of history.

Apparitions in need of affection
when an embrace is inconceivable.

We say ‘¡Hola casa!’ to a heart
who wants to be seen.

 

Enchanted adjective in-'chan-təd
Merriam-Webster
1. placed under or as if under a magic spell, having or seeming to have a magical quality. 15th Century, from Latin
2. made to feel delightfully pleased or charmed

The difference between haunted
and enchanted—a fine line.

Almost a matter
of attitude.

 

Definitions added April 4, 2022


Web Browser tool
Wikipedia
1. application software for accessing the World Wide Web. The purpose of a web browser is to fetch content from the Web or from a local storage device and display it on a user's device…retrieved with the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)

Features of these poems as ppi:
a restless refreshing and eager
in-page search party,
thirsty links and impertinent
form drops full of shameless
asks, buttons and buttons
(with an Amish lack of flair),
commentary and near-commentary,
out and cantankerous text
formatting to obscure,
from root to source
to a meta-proof
of multimedia-coquetry
and plenty of places to tuck.

 

ASCII an acronym, a code a-skee
Merriam-Webster
1. a code for representing alphanumeric information, 1963, from computer nerds

Just ask me about ASCII—
with binary bits and bytes,
semaphores of billet doux
bullets—who ever said
pixels aren’t full of wilderness
and blood?

Do you even need to find the machine
that makes sense of this?

073 032 108 111 118 101 032 121 111 117 046

the translator who knows what I mean?


Mouth noun maùth
Merriam-Webster
1. the natural opening through which food passes into the body of an animal and which in vertebrates is typically bounded externally by the lips and internally by the pharynx and encloses the tongue, gums, and teeth, Indo-European

The courtyard of the soul
where we all arrive
to both take it in
or dish it out
with tongue and teeth
and all our muggy airs.

The opening into which
you wish to crawl
like into a jar
or trumpet
or well.

Where the heart goes
to break.

 

Definitions added April 11, 2022


(after Digital Poetry Theory)

Manifesto noun ma-nə-'fe-stó
Merriam-Webster
1. a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer, 1630 from Latin

A short dress exposing long legs,
a protrusion,
a meanness,
a philandering dalliance
of profession.

A fuss, a wank,
a tease, a credo,

a masquerade of a vow.

 

Bed noun bed
Merriam-Webster
1. a piece of furniture on or in which to lie and sleep, a place of sex relations, 12th Century from Old Norse
2. a supporting surface or structure, foundation

A text bed in the digital sense,
in a poetic sense,
the bed we begin with
built on articulation
and ambition.

The cows we own,
the wood in the pile,
the materials at hand.

 

Seed noun séd
Merriam-Webster
1. the grains or ripened ovules of plants used for sowing, a developmental form of an animal, 12th Century from Old English
3. a source of development or growth

Known in verse as the seed text,
more focused, seminal,
important, the pivot,
the spring,
breaking ground with a hoe,
the crop we mine, mine, mine,

instrumental, conducive to
me,
the precursor,

the bed of the seed.

 

Meaninglessness adjective or noun mé-niŋ-ləs
Merriam-Webster and Oxford Languages via Google
1. having no meaning, 1796 from Middle English
2. having no assigned function in a language system

Procedural meaninglessness,
montage meaninglessness,
randomizer-brand vibrators.

Decades working pitfalls,
proving, defining, rationalizing,
eating and sleeping with the self

has hurt us.

Turns out
we were just fucking ourselves.

And now there is nothing left to hold on to.

 

Tour de Force noun túr-də-'fórs
Oxford Languages via Google
1. an impressive performance or achievement that has been accomplished or managed with great skill. 1802, French

If only we could be as brave
with the heart
as we are with the art.

But then the heart is full of art:
whitewash and graffiti, theatrics,
argument, song and dance,

a real tour de force.

Sacrificing the heart to art
is an affair of reluctance
and indisposition.

Does it belong there?
Does it matter there?
Art serves the heart well

with tricks of trade,
but the heart uncovers and opens,
unlocks the inconspicuous

and undoes its art.
Art conspires and colludes
while the heart forfeits.

 

Definitions added April 18, 2022


Lilac noun 'lí-läk
Merriam-Webster
1. a widely cultivated European shrub of the olive family that has cordate ovate leaves and large panicles of fragrant pinkish-purple or white flowers, 1625, from Sanskrit
2. a variable color averaging a moderate purple

A real Isabela she had a green way,
my grandmother, with her armada

of lilacs marching along
like a 6th Street fence,

her sentry and rampart
beyond which grew

the tough little grass
of her descendants.

Those lilacs hid the shady porch
where a sick calf froze one winter.

That wabi-sabi adobe
at the corner and crossroads

of a grand horse opera
replete with weeds and rocks

averaging a moderate flower
to show the plains a throne,

averaging a moderate purple
across the taciturn expanse.

 

Cowboy noun 'kaú-bói
Merriam-Webster and www.etymonline.com
1. one who tends cattle or horses, a mounted cattle-ranch hand, from cowhand, 1852, American English

When I think of the cowboys
I have known, the first real one
was probably Jarrid, age five.

On his ranchlands north of town
we would run and run toward the horizon
of grass and sky, a borderline seemingly
unreachable but in reality a cliff’s edge
over a steep plateau. I never made it
to that edge, but Jarrid did a long, long time ago.

He had all the playthings of a cowboy,
although he already was a real one:
toy guns and belts and hats, wool shirts
and, most importantly to me,
dolls, cowboy dolls,
with an astonishing verisimilitude
to Barbie and her friends;
although these particular boys
had little soft plastic vests,
hard plastic boots and slender, whispering,
miniature plastic lariats you could hook
delicately into little plastic cowboy hands.

I have a delicious and distinct memory
of sitting on the floor in Jarrid’s bedroom,
the hard sun coming in through the window
and me squinching soft plastic cowboy hats
onto hard plastic cowboy heads.

(Sometimes, to this day,
when I am sent into my father’s closet
to grab something he can no longer reach,
I will sneak down the cardboard hatbox
with my grandfather’s old, weatherworn
cowboy hat and place it,
one-handed,
onto my own head.)

Jarrid was a year younger than me,
and even without me he ran and ran,
as memory serves, once into a still train.
He bruised easily. He had leukemia.
You had to be careful with him.

His father was a tall, thin cowboy
with a big handle-bar mustache.
He never spoke and his mouth rarely broke
into a smile, at least that I can recall.
At small town events, the man would lean
against the walls of church basements
and mason halls, far away from the riff-raff
and he would scare the shit out of me.

In Jarrid’s room with all the plastic cowboys,
I often worried his father would come home
from the high plains to stand scowling at Jarrid’s door
just to scare the shit out of me.
I would see him again years later
and wonder what it was I had been so afraid of
except the heavy silence of stern-looking men.

After all, he played bridge with my grandparents.
For God’s sake, who could be afraid
of a bridge-playing cowboy?

Actually, I don’t think that has anything
to do with anything.

His mother once told my mother
it was hard for her to see me sometimes
all these years after Jarrid has died,
(he was 8 years old when he got to that horizon,
leaving me behind in the dust and sunshine),
because I could not help but remind her
of where he was and where he could have been.

We are tethered that way, Jarrid and me.
And I believe he is our bellwether soul,
the sheep out in the front of the flock
with the bell and marching ahead
to where we will all go.

 

Reata noun ré-'a-tə
Merriam-Webster and https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/reata
1.lariat, a long light rope (as of hemp or leather) used with a running noose to catch livestock or tether grazing animals, 1846 from American Spanish

Lasso is the verb, lariat is the noun,
in Spanish reata, which in slang also means
drunken penis; the Internet taught me this,
not horses, cows or cowboys.

A lariat is a trick, a scary ruse
for the cow or horse.
See it floating above in mid-air,
wavering, wobbling and tense
for all its showy impressions
of slack and play?

And I say this to the reata:
I know nothing,
I have no answers.
I don’t invest or sway
influence. It’s possible my love
is good for nothing
redeemable.

I have never asked
for anything that isn’t mine
and not to be crushed by the world that is.

El amor es una reata.

I only ask for the strength
to show up
and feel it.

 

Explication noun ek-splə-'ká-shən
Merriam-Webster
1. to give a detailed explanation of, to develop the implications of, analyze logically, 1531 from Latin

Marcel Proust deconstructed love
and longing like a scientist
or a machinist.

The thing that catches
the unsettled, wild Swann.
What was the catch?

Was it the Vinteuil sonata
or thinking of a Botticelli
or just two people caught
in a moment unlocking itself?

 

Definitions added April 27, 2022


Remediation noun ri-'mé-dé-'a-shən
Writing Skills Lab and Digital Rhetoric Collaborative
Defined as “the representation of one medium in another, a defining characteristic of the new digital media” (Bolter and Grusin). New media may revise, repurpose, remix, reference, and/or compete with older media.

Everything that pours through these nets,
especially anything old and made for other transmissions,
has been remediated, revised and repurposed,

embedded with new assumptions and affordances
but reflecting back on old assumptions and affordances.
The you that goes through another media or medium,

the new sound in a gesture of engineering
the textile of you, the yarn, the spin of wire.
When the context changes, the memory changes.

And now I can’t remember what I was assuming
all those years ago. I became new when I typed
out an M and an E and then published myself to you.

 

Treading Water verb trediŋ wó-tər
Merriam-Webster
3. to keep the body nearly upright in the water and the head above water by a treading motion of the feet usually aided by the hands, Old High German

Use in a sentence:
You can only tread water
for so long before you start to sink.

There was a kid at our neighborhood pool,
I can’t remember his name (so let’s call him Bruce).
One of the only things I remember about him
was his speedo swimsuit, (de rigueur
for 8-year old boys at the time),
and that his was unfortunately a light shade of tan
and when wet completely see-through as he paraded
between the snack bar and the kiddie-pool’s
water-sprouting feature. Everyone saw it
but no one dared mention it to him,
especially me as I was running around in circles
in my Wonder Woman swimsuit feeling invincible.

Later that same year in music class we were asked
to show-and-tell our favorite song and recording artist.
I had just moved to this French city from a Spanish place.
I loved Sonny & Cher but I wasn’t about to come out about it.
Jesus, that would have been social suicide.

I went home from school that day and found my brother
(who would have been about 13 at the time):
“Randy! Randy! You have to tell me
everything you know about the Beatles!”

He loved the Beatles and had that red-gatefold album
where they’re leaning over a balcony and looking alike.
Randy flipped the cover over to the back
and I could suddenly make sense of it.

He helped me memorize their names, (and dammit,
they all had completely generic names except Ringo),
and then we worked out a speech
and he picked out the song “Help
which was the big tactical mistake in hindsight.
What eight-year old girl would pick “Help,”
especially this one? I should have picked
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
which I had heard Randy play a million times and actually liked,
(although I had no idea what it meant;
was love like a stack of Mad Magazines you try to keep away
from an annoying little sister?),
or “We Can Work It Out”
which Sonny & Cher sang all the time on their TV show,
or if I could have shook myself from the future
and picked the perfectly literary “Eleanor Rigby.”

But no. We picked “Help;”
and so I schlepped Randy’s Red album to music class
and while I sat and waited for every other kid
to trudge through their musical beloveds,
Bruce stood up, (yeah, speedo guy),
and did his presentation on…
the Beatles!

Shit. This was a disaster. A Beatle fan would surely
see through my conspiratorial fraudulence.
I procrastinated as long as possible and finally stood up
in front of that audience of 26 hungry little sharks
(and Bruce), stoically espousing Beatlemania
and all the while looking over at him where I could tell
he wasn’t buying any of it standing there
in the back of the classroom.
And when I finally set the needle to “Help,”
I saw him back there shaking his head very, very slowly.

A year later for Christmas I got the Sonny & Cher Live album
which was filled with at least three lounge-act Beatles covers
and my brother acted absolutely aggrieved every time I played that thing,
(which was quite a lot), and probably regretted ever helping me
pretend I wasn’t who I was in the first place.


Definitions added May 9, 2022


Fame noun fám
Merriam-Webster
1.a Public estimation, reputation
1.b Popular acclaim, renown, 13th Century Middle-English

There’s a joke among us
about why poets are so cutthroat?
It’s because the stakes are so low.

It would follow some benefit
to being a famous dead poet
or even an obscure one dodging

the flash of the guillotine,
the hobgoblins and banshees.
Avoiding everything

both glorious and monstrous,
if you can swing it
like a baseball just short of the fence.

We’re pleasant to our dead.
We give them every opportunity
and leisure to enjoy their laurels.

When you’re dead
no one can hurt your feelings
and so no one tries.

 

Entrée noun en·trée
Dictionary.com
3. freedom of entry or access, 1775, French

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here
but looking for trouble,
putting up tent poles in a faraway place.

Not unlike the city of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores
de Las Vegas Grandes, I should be
trying to lay low and keep a good thing quiet.

It would seem keeping guarded admittance
to a people, a place or a stockpile
belongs to the rich and poor alike.

Rope off the freeway exits
or lay unassuming like a glen,
like Our Lady of the Sorrows

of the Great Meadows
or like Puerto Vallarta
before Liz and Dick arrived.

Like a surround of honeysuckle
some five-year old deems an ideal place
because she didn’t know any better;

and how that place maintains a prudent perfection
to this very day
because now she does.

 

Fortune noun for·tune
Merriam-Webster
1.a a very large sum of money
1.b riches, wealth
1.c a store of material possessions, 14th Century, Middle English

After Santa Claus was finally exposed as a myth,
my mother told us we had a price-limit on Christmas gifts
and it was a veritable fortune for a kid back in the 1970s.
It encouraged me to believe my parents were secretly wealthy.
They were not. This was my grandmother’s money. Every year.
I now wish I had been nicer to my grandmother Christmas morning
instead of seeing her as ancillary to the bow and paper-strewn shenanigans.

My mother would sit me down at the kitchen table
with the Sears catalogue and a calculator.
And if my Christmas list went over the limit by a dollar,
I would throw my fists to the sky and exclaim,
“Arg! Something’s gotta go!”

And it only happened once, but one year
I got everything on that list. Every single thing.
I was so happy that day I could barely contain myself.
And I have to tell you, it was fucking awesome.
And that fucking awesomeness lasted about 24-hours

until I woke up the next morning—
when, abruptly, it felt just like any other day.
All the glorious stuff was suddenly old hat.
Miraculously. Overnight.

This is a lesson of privilege and fortune
if nothing else is. Not everyone can have it,
this unwrappable endowment of bittersweet wisdom,
to feel that prank of wanting, which has nothing much to do
with that which could really satisfy you—
deep down in your vibrating nerve and marrow.

Last year I was following my mother through the aisles
of Discount Drug Mart in Brunswick Ohio,
a likely Christmas-list of a store as you will ever find.
I had to duck down the aisle of greetings
and cry for two minutes because I’m 52-years old
and my mother is still asking me if I want anything;
she’ll get it for me just like those point-of-sale rubber balls
I once craved or packs of Cosmic Candy. I stood and cried
between the shelves of wrapping paper and all the pretty bows
because what I want more than anything is time.

 

Secret adjective sé-krət
Merriam-Webster
1.a kept from knowledge or view, hidden
1.b marked by the habit of discretion, closemouthed
1.d not acknowledged, unavowed
1.e: conducted in secret
2. remote from human frequentation or notice, secluded
3. revealed only to the initiated, esoteric, 14th Century

I’ve been thinking lately about the compounds
of a secret and why it’s structured

the way it is, its vascular dimensions,
its palisades and compartments.

What history brings it to be,
what concern or business.

How no secret between people
can be installed or established

without trust
or without a lack of trust.

 

Yin-yang noun yínyáng
Wikipedia
In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang, dark-light, negative-positive is a Chinese philosophical concept that describes how obviously opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Old Chinese.

These days there are no guarantees,
but I have seen junctures of time
where calamities were quietly underwriting
good fellowship.

And I have been at the crossroads
of the misfortunate turned miraculous.
The dips and peaks have worn me out
into a wabi-sabi little old owl,

someone willing to accept a long list
of things I don’t understand.
You only know what you know.
It's like devastating sinkholes

that swallow up what little bittersweets
you’ve managed to hunt and gather,
like the newly discovered Karst sinkhole
in China, big enough to hold

the Gateway to the West,
a stupendous sinkhole deep enough
for spelunkers to parachute through its air
in order to study its despair.

And instead they found a forest
of ancient trees and a new world
of underground geosphere
unfolding beyond your dreams.

 

Definitions added May 13, 2022


Recipe noun 're-sə-pé
Merriam-Webster
1. a prescription
2. a set of instructions for making something from various ingredients
3. a formula or procedure for doing or attaining something, Latin

If you bring sugar I will bring sugar.
If you bring bitter I will bring bitter.

If you bring fear I will bring fear.
If you bring anger I will bring anger.

It’s an unavoidable recipe of my physics.

If you bring pride I will bring pride.
If you bring silence I will bring silence.

If you bring curiosity I will bring curiosity.
If you bring your true self I will bring mine.

It’s the inevitable geometry of my scaffolding.

I operate like the universe I am a part of,
the same science, the same church.

We will undoubtedly bring doubts.
They are like weeds—
and what flower grows without these.

 

Definition added May 18, 2022


Correlation does not imply causation saying in statistics
Statistics Knowledge Portal
Correlation tests for a relationship between two variables. However, seeing two variables moving together does not necessarily mean we know whether one variable causes the other to occur. This is why we commonly say “correlation does not imply causation.” A strong correlation might indicate causality, but there could easily be other explanations…” from data nerds

It's popular among data folk
to look over pretty line graphs
and say things like, “interesting
but unrelated.”

Or “related maybe
but not the cause of,
not due to, not grown out of…”

And this is pertinent to what I’m going through right now.
Which is why I bring it up.
Not to illustrate pies and bars.

Correlation is the in spite of
in relations to another figure,
not because of that one, nor a breakdown in the two,
not problems with a coaction.

If you can understand
the inconvenient but ultimately
beloved difference.

Or how big these words really are:
however, nevertheless, nonetheless
despite, irrespective of,
regardless of, regardless, irregardless,
even then, even so, even though,
notwithstanding that, no matter,
notwithstanding…

Significant adjective sig-'ni-fi-kənt
Merriam-Webster
1. having meaning
2.a. having or likely to have influence or effect, important
2.b. probably caused by something other than mere chance, Latin

I’m guessing you don’t think
it was significant
at the end of the day.

That it made no difference,
was inconsequential.

Nary a ripple or sound.
Of no registered magnitude.
No milestone reached.

But I think it made a difference
like a sizable but silent flood of water
quietly soaking into the dirt ground
and giving packing orders
to thousands of mice.

 

Definitions added May 20, 2022


after The Rockford Files*

Jealous adjective ‘je-ləs
Merriam-Webster
1. Hostility toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage, from Latin

I could maybe do a dissertation on The Rockford Files
starting from the answering machine gags before the theme song plays,
(new-media, postmodern humor about a brand-new technology),
and the iconic theme song itself, where steaming prompts me to “Skip Intro”
but who on earth would want to do that and miss all the haggardly regal
and put-out mugs of the late, great James Garner?

He limps up and down scrubby hills and doesn’t get paid half the time.
He makes me care about car chases through LA’s scenic boulevards,
waiting to see all his parking-lot duck-down fake-outs.

Any man on the show who is not James Garner looks downright slimy,
heavies like James Woods, Joseph Campanella, Abe Vigoda,
Eddie Fontaine, Jackie Cooper (who also directed 4 episodes),
Tom Selleck.

Rockford’s a yellow-page private dick living in a rusted-out beach trailer,
but he’s still James Garner after all and he always gets the girl,
the 1970s finest, in fact, go-getters with big eyelashes.
I like to watch them thicken the plots and think about
which ones you might be attracted to.

Like Lindsay Wagner, looking fresh-faced in the pilot movie;
or Susan Strasberg (#44, “A Bad Deal in the Valley“), who is a little old
but still looks great under a hat; or the irresistible Stefanie Powers
(#29, “The Real Easy Red Dog“), a private eye herself
in that cute yellow top I would borrow if I could;
Sherry Jackson (ibid.) looking perfect in a pink bikini;

Suzanne Somers (#7, “The Big Ripoff“) looking very girl-next-door
with car problems; her Three’s Company replacement,
the lovely Priscilla Barnes (#75, “The Mayor’s Committee From Deer Lick Falls“);
the urgently sensible Joan Van Ark (#8, “Find Me If You Can,“
#30, “Resurrection in Black and White,“ and #56, “There’s One in Every Port“);
Shelley Fabares (#11, “Caledonia—It’s Worth a Fortune“);

the impeccable jawline of Mary Frann (#16, “Counter Gambit“);
Linda Evans (#17, “Claire, “ and #24, “The Farnsworth Stratagem“)
who sleeps with Rockford even as she’s scamming him;
Janet MacLachlan (#27, “The Deep Blue Sleep“) just trying
to work hard and get ahead with the handsome Robert Hayes as her assistant,
(credited very presidentially as Robert B. Hayes);
Sharon Glass (#85, “The Fourth Man“) who is not as pretty as the others
but has sexy chemistry with Rockford nonetheless;

the pouty prettiness of Joanne Nail (#71, “The Dog and Pony Show“);
the old glamour and intensity of Barbara Babcock
(#74, “Irving the Explainer“); the incomparable Rita Moreno
(#82, “The Paper Palace,“ #89, “Rosendahl and Gilda Stern Are Dead,“
and #115, “No-Fault Affair“), the utterly capable Mariette Hartley
(#108, “Paradise Cove“), a young Erin Gray (#99, “With the French Heel Back,
Can the Nehru Jacket Be Far Behind“); Lauren Bacall (#109,
“Lions, Tigers, Monkeys and Dogs“), a real score that;

or the one I’ve saved for last, my personal favorite,
the adorable Sian Barbara Allen (#5, “Tall Woman in a Red Wagon“)
who works on Rockford’s last nerve for 45 minutes
until, after various perilous adventures that end up
with Rockford in a hospital bed, she says
“It happened, didn’t it? I grew on you.”
And Rockford smiles at her and says, “Yeah. Yeah, you did.”

Aww, Sian Barbara Allen! You grew on me, too!

But this is not about the women I love.
This is about the women you love,
girls who wear no seat belts and never slam up against the dashboard
when the Firebird Esprit embanks on the sand dune.
The girls Rockford drives around LA, girls holding on
to the window frame in the passenger seat,
girls in the catbird seat. Is this jealousy,
thinking about fiction's loveliest ladies
in the most cliched of Hollywood’s car chases?

No, it’s not the girls in the car; those girls are fine.
Those girls are my girls, too. It’s the ones
who make it back to Rockford’s shitty trailer
the ones with Rockford’s arms thrown around them,
watching his crappy coffee-table-top television,
the ones who get to peruse his half-assed bookshelf
and the bed crammed halfway into his bedroom closet.
Those lucky girls squeamishly taking a seat among the Rockford debris.

And it’s not jealousy, by the way.

It’s sorrow.

 

*Episode numbers and titles from Ed Robertsons’ episode guide (1995)

Definition added May 25, 2022