423b2e
423b2e

11.16.2012

thesaurus



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. 


~ Billy Collins

xxx

7 comments:

soubriquet said...

In England, there is a dictionary of swearwords, published by a rather scatological comic aimed at adolescent boys....
One of the characters in that comic is "Roger Mellie, the Man on the Telly". He is, as his name suggests, a TV presenter, but one who swears all the time. So the dictionary is his.
"Roger's Profanisaurus"
http://www.viz.co.uk/profanisaurus.html

soubriquet said...

Billy Collins?

Are you mellowing, by any chance?


Adullamite said...

Do you use a dictionary to find out what thesaurus means?

J Cosmo Newbery said...

What's another word for thesaurus?

Loved the line "Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags."

soubriquet said...

Do you think the...saurus?

Grey, heavy, and wrinkled,
The saurus, he moved through the swamp.
Above him an opteryx tinkled,
But below him a sudden big sink-hole,
He sank thru the sludge with a thump.
The mud filled his wrinkles, and nostril.

Thesaurus was renamed, the fossil.

red dirt girl said...

"Roger's Profanisaurus" - great Xmas present idea!! Maybe one for each mulette ....

Collins - Arrgghh. I wasn't aware it was a Collins' poem until I googled the last stanza. I think I've lost at least 10 IQ points this year due to aging and that is the reason Collins is now treated favorably at 'Through the Gate'. I also blame my plebeian forefathers.

I use a dictionary to find out how to spell words like plebeian ... LOL

Onomasticon. Soubry could have written a poem about an onomasticon which is related to the...saurus. Though I think fossil is clever in light of Collins' anti-thesaurus manifesto.

xxx!

soubriquet said...

Oh now, don't go all antithetic on me....