American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
by Richard Fein
I duct-taped your front cover to your back cover
and held you upright, firmly gripping you as I gingerly
tapped you up and down on the stand, encouraging
everything to be in place, all of you holding together,
and in the process I found myself staring at the top
of your incurvate pages so compressed and swirled inward
they looked like emigrant-waves from a Japanese print,
some even having made their way into the gulf between
the binding and the spine when the front cover
was hanging askew, like the injured wing of a bird,
my makeshift adhesion now holding you together again
after fifty years of my opening you, fingering you,
the tips of my fingers expectantly moving down you,
or across you, seeking spellings, syllables, sounds,
definitions, origins, earlier or secondary meanings,
usage sometimes marked “slang,” “regional,” “archaic,”
those fingers unraveling your pages to get to my word, as
I even love getting lost or going astray along my way
and landing on another word of yours, where I linger,
touching and mouthing that word too, delightfully
diverted from where I was originally headed, coming
away with something new, a meaning, a spelling, a sound,
but now the early pages clump up and the outside columns
of your a’s wear away, rip, tear off, some pages so curved
Inward they look like roll-your-owns or hollow wafers, pages
dog-eared as far as the t’s, corners so folded over
I have to peel back the flap to get the full entry.
But I don’t have the heart to throw you out because you
pulse in my heart and I still love to hold you, sometimes
carrying you over to spread you out under even more light.
I still love touching you, once again looking up a word,
like this morning, thumbing for spavined and entropy again—
oh, both of you words that I love to speak, taste and see
even as I lose your meanings in the slippage of my memory.
Wordpages, you’ll last a little longer. We’ve been together so long,
even though we must admit you don’t have an entry for what
I did to keep you together. It will never verb into you, alas.
But when you do fall apart, my mending insufficient—more
and more of the pages turning inward, creasing, becoming parchmenty,
difficult to unravel, more and more tearing off at the edges, it getting
trickier to fold back the corners and reveal what’s hidden—oh,
then, my treasure, my garner—let your words, my words—
my words, your words—crumble in my hands and fingers, usage going,
all the gold letters on your terraced alphabet tabs having
flaked away, leaving behind them vacant, sallow half-moons.
Copyright © 2018 by Richard Fein.