Of course, when I published my comic (but also more than comic) "List of Words Never to Be Used in Poems," people protested. Some sent me very good poems using some of the words from the list. But no one composed a work using all the words. That was up to my beloved friend of 45 years, Audrey Roth. Here are the original list and Audrey's beautiful composition. I love you, Audrey Roth!
List of Words Never to Be Used in Poems
Soul, being, essence, fire, dream, auburn, scent, inhumanity, starry, ripe, free, heaven, transcend, memory, butterfly, chrysalis, please, mad, ecology, teach, tear, lachrymose, cry, frown, smile, love, thought, potential, season, poetry, verse. Transubstantiate, transform, ascend, breathe, breath, usurp, sing, shudder, genius, antihero, thrush, lark, birdsong, exaltation, maid, woman, man, men, attempt, right, am, word, tresses, thrill. Form, character, said, desire, longing, elm, oak, tree, flame, yearn, burn, consume, new, human, bow, warrior, want, page, blank. And so far, you agree. Well, then…
Understanding, unique, déluge,manqué, mensch , wheelbarrow, manifest, palimpsest, avatar, sight, seer, samovar, light, ingredient, save, Oprah, Jerry, nothing, but, yet. The, a, loneliness, mélange, sea, lighthouse, tower, healing, light, use, underscore, trial, Kafka, yes, shop, radiant, garden, fore, yore, music, recollection, last, addiction, evolution. First, over, in, DNA, Darwinian, medicate, pharmacology, software, star, hardwired, stellar, bang. Relate, relationship, query, queer, think, survivor, mine, pain, sorrow, tragedy, woe, enter, laughing, mope. Still with me? How about…?
Life, live, living, hope, horror, help, one, singularity, Buddha, art, bomb, arms, lines, marital, Broadway, show, tell, ask, mission, missive, missile, realm, wonder, wander, know, knowledge, reify, epistemological, portent, magic, magical, many, omnipotent, avuncular, very, theme, adjective, parse, nun, father, mother, brother, we, our, us, I. Eye, omnibus, rarity, time, past, future, date, number, year, one, abstract, narrative, native, experiment, fusion, phrase, quote, café. Random (or mad), insight, learned, spirit, well, good, thanks, fine, good. You?
Audrey Roth's response (touché):
Homage to a Friend:
In the past, date uncertain (the year 1968 is my recollection), I met a girl – a genius, a mensch – unique, with radiant auburn tresses, a wonder for life. A character. A seer.
I could relate. Our relationship was Darwinian; it transformed us. Mine? Evolution from chrysalis to butterfly. Hers? Lachrymose to laughing. From blank slates to palimpsests – essence a memory, a scent, a dream – our magic was – well – magical, with potential to render us omnipotent. Addictions? Poetry. Kafka –antihero, warrior. Buddha. (Oprah and Jerry were yet to be – we could not quote them.) We wandered the streets, sang Broadway songs at top volume, and shop…(lifted).
We would transcend sorrow – pain; loneliness, tragedy; moping; man’s inhumanity to men (to say nothing of woman) – at a remove. Carry them off in a wheelbarrow, light them on fire, watch them burn, flames consuming, ascending to the starry night. She wrote a missive: “I yearn for healing,” she said, “from father, mother, brother – the mélange of many humans who have formed me with their experiments -- used, usurped, my love, entered my tower, attempting to deluge me with their narrative.” She frowned. “Woe is hardwired in me. Longing. I want to live, hope for a future where I can breathe, sing like the lark, its birdsong a balm to my being, a breath to medicate my soul. I am a maid manquée.”
“I think I know how to help.” I thought, along avuncular lines, of the necessary ingredients – no software supporting my search. I would season her tears with understanding; parse her fine phrases; find a fusion of music and art for her learned brain; evoke a different knowledge –of insight, epistemological energy. “Let me save you. Tell me, show me, more – please,” I asked. My desire to teach, reify her abstract realm, free her from random recollections of living in days of yore. “But how?” I queried. My mission – of manifestly mad singularity – cease her shudders, her cries, her horror. Sire a sea of smiles, a theme of thrills, a new spirit for this star, this stellar survivor. Launch the missiles, the bombs – not one, but many. BANG!! Turn the page over; change her very DNA; transubstantiate! An alternative avatar would fly to the fore, exaltation in its eye. Ineffable - no number of adjectives could capture it.
Within my sight, a thrush settled on an elm tree (or an oak?) in a garden outside the café where we sat. Samovars surrounded. We were a rarity of cultural ecology, so right together. (A portent of our current omnibus of pharmacology?) The time was ripe. She morphed to marital bliss, complete with dacha (first making a trial run as a nun), I toward being a good queer. We spoke our last words while reading “To the Lighthouse,” – hers in verse, underscoring her native tongue – bowed; and wrapped our arms around each other.
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