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Longing for Charlton Laird

The best thesaurus

I’ve ever had

(and yes, I’ll admit

that I use one,

that I can’t

fire off


thousand words

from the front of

my fucking skull)

is a Webster’s

New World


by Charlton Laird,

2003 edition,

one I had to tape

like a doctor

closing wounds

on the battlefield,

and I’ve been


for an updated

version ever since

(though mine boasts

it’s “completely new”—

a one-time truth

now faded lie),

well, sleuthing

as far as


will allow,

and that a google

search will take me,

only to discover

Charlton died

in ’84,

making me wonder

how he’d done it,

invoking synonyms

while in a coffin

(or as a forlorn

heap of ash

in someone’s urn),


what to say

in place of life

though life itself

had slipped

on through his fingers

(well, if he still

had them that is,

boney as they’d


I feel as if

I should name him

as co-author,

of all the poems

I’ve ever scribed,

knowing some

of the searing verbs

belong to him,

that I might have

uttered heart

instead of pith,

if not for his suggestion,

old rather than


which may have

caused my wife

a bit of offense,

the spark to end our


though I might have

won her back

with my enchantment

in lieu of love,

that my little extra


regained her favour,

a sprinkling

touch of magic

from the pages

in my hand,

that I’ve never

believed in ghosts

until today,

his sibilance of


providing rescue,

from another

tired lyric,

his antonyms

a warning

to watch my step,

that what I’d thought

was a flawless term

is in fact

the opposite,

that I’ll die from


if I use it,

join him in that great

Athenaeum in the sky,

our conversations


in pregnant pauses,

each of us

trying to conjure

the perfect word.

Andreas Gripp

August 28, 2023

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