The Case of the Missing Word
Senectitude is missing from Langenscheidt™’s Pocket Dictionary,
Merriam-Webster, 1999. A missing adverb or adjective, most being
wholly unnecessary, would not raise a wooly eyebrow. A missing noun
presents another case, serious enough to turn a kingdom upside down.
People fear the word may be locked in a child’s closet, or warehoused
in some home for aged words, wasting away. The Bureau of Old Words
Protective Services worries lest blame fall on its doorstep. It funds
a study, which concludes the word being old and little used, has
Indiana Jones anthropologists study maps and chart expeditions of
discovery. Philanthropic organizations offer rewards for its
recovery. News programs flood airwaves with coverage pressing
overused talking heads into service. Six accuse terrorists, six blame
global warming. Democrats promise to create a new word to replace it.
Republicans insist the original be found.
Henry Morton Stanley discovers a long word living in remote Africa.
“Senectitude, I presume?” he asks. “Dude, juvenescence,” it replies.
Senectitude watches from the second storey of a gold house on the
front of Random House Webster’™s College Dictionary, 1991. It wonders
at the fuss. Unemployed, it waits for someone to pick up the correct
dictionary and give it another chance to be a useful subject.
You Were Missed at Your Wake
Because you were Irish, after you died
we threw you a wake. Your family downed
vast amounts of alcohol, drowned your past
and their present in it. All of us stayed
past sensibility, past mawkish self-
pity pushing headlong into bathos,
where sober souls fear to tread. Seeking
some sense of candor, Denny called
Aunt Leotard a dried-up, flat-assed
old puke, hitting two for three before he
lurched head first into the bushes to hurl
forth a more basic truth. Uncle Canard,
crowned with the lid to a Dutch oven, tried
to gore an elm tree with a hurled butcher
knife shouting, “All Protestants can kiss
my royal Irish ass.” The Lutherans,
your widow’s parents, stood in stoic shock
until umbrage took command. They soon left
while none took notice. Aileen, alien
in our midst, sat bemused before flying
herself to Mars leaving to Earth her late
husband’s family, who had forgotten
by now what they had gathered for… and you.
Aboard the Cruise Ship Ark
My cabin’s down the passageway from the chimpanzees’ and below the
Elephants’. In fact, the ship overflows with animals; there must be
two of each kind at least. The chimps party all night with the
long-tailed macaques, while the elephants never lie down, the
thumps of their feet raining down like the torrent outside. None of
the animals have manners befitting polite society. Although I’ve
heard a rumor the captain has ixnayed the uckingfay, the
chimpanzees hump each other in the passageway and the elephants
play obscene games with their trunks. I guess that’s why they’re
I had to lie to get a cabin, as miserable as it is, by swearing
that I was bringing a mate, and me, the only moron in Mesopotamia
who couldn’t even beg a blind date. When traveling to the mountains
of Ararat in a deluge, beggars can’t be choosers. The word is the
captain’s a drunk, but the Ark was the only ship going that way.
Given the ruckus overhead, the fornicating chimps, and that my
falsehood was found out and I’m now scooping animal poop into the
sea for my passage, I might do like the unicorns and swim the rest
of the way.
The Great American Fellaheen
from Chants for the Fellaheen.
Muckers and scrapers, haulers and pavers, ranters and ravers —
Stitchers and trudgers, diggers and pounders,
scrubbers and grubbers, sketchers and painters.
Trying to get-byers, late-at-night flyers,
just hanging-onners, fast going-downers,
old Mom and Poppers, sad thrift store shoppers,
hot burger flippers, cold ice-cream dippers,
cheap five and dimers, mad petty crimers.
Up all nighters, hate group fighters,
graveyard shifters, mean-street grifters,
twelve-hour grinders, Oh never minders,
six-day a weekers, small-time squeakers,
back and fillers, hard-rock drillers.
Tamp and stompers, bedroom rompers, pizza chompers —
Big rig haulers, living in squalors, short and tallers —
Just 'round towners, out and downers, earthworm drowners —
Carpet layers, getting grayers, card room players, soothsayers,
midnight prayers, straw not hayers. . .
Swampers, packers, typers, scroungers,
Daubers, baggers, tellers, loungers —
Pushers, dopers, givers, takers,
Ushers, ropers, slavers, bakers.
Bums and 'boes, under bridgers, on the street-folks,
Won't say yes blokes —
On the roaders, smalltime hawkers, number crunchers,
Hot dog munchers —
Old junk dealers, bar-drink servers, meal slingers,
Broken wingers —
Longhaul truckers, sewer line muckers, down on their luckers,
oyster shuckers, hide and duckers, slow lane suckers, fallers and buckers,
wood yard chuckers, nip and tuckers, lowlife yukkers.
Deck swabbers, got no jobbers, minor league lobbers,
hob nobbers, grave robbers, beer glass sobbers.
Topless dancers, sly-look glancers, geomancers, second chancers,
high-leg prancers, gandydancers, pimple lancers, pay advancers.
Table servers, cable stringers, choir singers, tire changers,
dire straiters, hook baiters, book readers, tax cheaters,
hired greeters, tired beaters. . .
There's your mob, the great unwashed,
the vast lower class,
the great American beat fellaheen —
Oh, for the frivolity of youth,
when barefoot and free levity dashed
over the uncouth hills asking
for pardon rather than permission.
Slaps and blows pile up each a stripe
across the psyche. Is education
a treasure after all? "Yes, buts "
and commitments stacking high
like cordwood hoarded
for snows that never come while
delight fries in opinion' fire.
Waste and want. Judgment's been
a part of our garb since mankind
first put on skins... and airs. We
need some sort of marker, some
screed slung over our shoulders
signifying arrival at adulthood.
Too often, we smack headlong
into the brick wall of good sense,
sliding down like a cartoon character
turning two-dimensional from three.