The Electrical Dictionary of Melancholy Absolutes

An Online Poem by Mary McCray
A dictionary in progress

(November 2021 - )
Last updated: December 6, 2021



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

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



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.

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