DEFINITIONS: A HISTORICAL APPROACH
Frippery: n. The clothing that I wear. The clothing that we wear. The clothing that is sold at the VOA in Brockport, NY on a rainy, dreadfully sunny day, crisp lines of strict sunbeam slanted across the pleated, outdated skirts, those pants the dressmaker once touched with golden fingers, flush with opportunity. Now, holes which Ben slowly traces, stuffs his fingers into, wonders if he should take them for five bucks even. The place where memories ache with lace burden, tremble with woolen recollection, flashes of business lunches and meetings downtown, all these clothes in our young hands, the register barely managing all the plans we have with them.
Looking glass: adj. My looking-glass self refigures my skinny image after I eat these French fries, my looking-glass self imagines I am obese, licking the pig fat from the bone leftover, my looking-glass self hinged on the hanger with the black bodice dress, slinky and a dream. My looking-glass self, imagined in black, imagined in silk, imagined in tiny dots of dizzy starvation, my looking-glass self a ghost in this window, the snow gray and loose around my looking-glass hips.
Malapropism: v. or n. "I am so incredibly kidnapped by your love!" I said to him, nervously, so calm and surprised and unreliable. His eyes gleamed like topaz squares, rubies in his Irish head, the freckles diseased and moving. "I wish I knew the future of that day, long ago!" I said, that moment, the sky bright with orange storm, the clouds stagnating in the offensive flurry of our new hearts, lifeless, fueling such heat between us. "Our love," I asked, menacingly, "is like this chicken wing, greasy and unspoken," and I held up the bony structure, boneless and chill, hot and spicy, mild and molded, clucking at how soft this new love was.
Photograph: v. When you photographed me, I was wedded to you. When you photographed me, I was wearing white. When you photographed me, I was on the green lawn, shivering in the hilly shadow of afternoon, the elm tree chill. When you photographed me, I was smiling, bright, when you photographed me, I was your bride and your joy. When you photographed me, I noticed and posed. When you photographed me, the air clasped my hand, the lake smoothed its surface, the layers of cake bent upon their morsels; when you photographed me, we were wed.
Pumpkin: n. My father buys a pumpkin for my seventh Halloween. He buys one that is perfectly round, carrot orange in its entire circumference. In the small kitchen, in our new cul-de-sac house, my father encourages me to cut through the gourd, to raise my stiff, scared elbow and "get right in there." With my orange pumpkin-knife, I slice through the layers, thick, and hit the slimy seeds. They seethe with anger, being so exposed. He pops the top off, lifts me up, lets me peer directly in; the orb is pulse and the orb is fresh. It is a field circumnavigating its way through One Knapps Circle. We plunge our hands, grasp at pulp, grind our teeth, until the world inside is flat and empty, void. Inside, later, he will light a tiny candle, and it will flicker, but the light inside will never be the same.
Vulture: n. On the side of the road sits a bird, bigger than I expected. His eyes are red and burning. His lips ache with prey. In front of him, beyond the pebbly black claws, a skunk, decaying each day on our nightly walk home, the stench a capable level of rot and dirt, a sequential step in the cycle. Photographed, the vulture would say, "I mean business," or, "I eat this now," but mostly, "I own this." He owns the lawn, where, just beyond, a tidy Sorority House stands with pink banners, held with wire and bow. A bird: an animal: Diclofenac will kill him before it kills cows; he ingests anything that can possibly decay. A systematic reconciliation with the world: a mercy, someone to remove the messy evidence of plausible suffering.
Knife: v. When my father called, far away from me, a plane ride away over lakes in the Minnesota landscape, across icy fields, his suicidal high notes took over most of the conversation. My voice couldn’t rise over the diagnosis, the incessant declarative bang of a mental disease, as big as any crevasse after someone has fallen through. His voice spliced each careful, sliced syllable, dicing and knifing through threat, myself, and mania, cuts as dewy red as paper over a diligent finger on a July Monday morning. Knifed and diced, his entire history, something cutting bone, something black and alien, coarse and dense. Ahistorically, he knifed through me.
Blunt: adj. My mother had naturally blonde hair, naturally great big blue eyes, naturally she said things like, "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all." At night, she wrapped her delicate pearl fingers around a crisp gin, a crisp tonic, condensation glowering in the loose dusk. To my father, at night, the real lessons: "Go to hell," and "You asshole," and "I hate you." These signatures, like graffiti on a cold stone wall, blunt and drone, slick with worry, almost but not quite right.
Blunt: n. The night: thick. The car: smoke. The day: gone. Wu-Tang blaring in the backseat, the seats rumbling, a man I think I love, from college, from this town I visit him in, from the streets sliding by, a blunt in two small hands, brown, disheveled, strong. The drug fits between my lips, caresses the lengths of time between here and there, between mom and dad, between girl and boy. The street lights flaunt sober joy, careful purpose, direction. In quietude, later, I know I do not love him, I know I cannot love him, I know I cannot say it, I know I cannot say it, I know I do not love him; I do not know how to be blunt.
Magnificent: adj. My father walked the dog on the canal path in winter. The trees nestled on the eroding edges, the soft pallid snow rested on the branches. The dog’s feet made a path in the snow. The trees sometimes made an arch, and he would stop. He put his hands behind his back, acquitting something like guilt for these small, cold moments. The dog would walk far from him, sunspots colliding on her back and her paws. Her ears flapped a dense, sensible brown, loyal to gravity. She got far away each time, his brown eyes would flicker, and panic, the trees a mess of nuisance, a blip in the line of sight. He would call her name, and she would come. The sun would converge on the tops of their heads, the precise hue of the dirt underfoot. Their steps evident in the bedded snow; their voices, calm, in the gaining distance.
This piece began as an experiment to fragment pieces of my personal history. It evolved into the manifestations of operant definitions of words that we usually accept, and turning those definitons on their sides, contextualizing them through alternative perspectives and life events.