by Billy Collins

It could be the name of a prehistoric beast 

that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up 

on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary, 

or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

It means treasury, but it is just a place 

where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundreds of family reunions 

are always being held, 

house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs,
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos; 

hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy 

all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,
inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile 

standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.

Here father is next to sire and brother close 

to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning. 

And every group has its odd cousin, the one 

who traveled the farthest to be here:
astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven
syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool. 

Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags. 

I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no 

such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous 

around people who always assemble with their own kind,
forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors
while others huddle alone in the dark streets. 

I would rather see words out on their own, away 

from their families and the warehouse of Roget, 

wandering the world where they sometimes fall 

in love with a completely different word. 

Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever 

next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place.

No comments:

Post a Comment