by Mara Jebsen
These are the first two entries of a book of poem-essays inspired by the Oxford English Dictionary.
A is for Ardor
Ardor is life. The zeal in a line
down the centre of the body. The wick.
I ascend, with burning
eye. Ascend: to rise
over mountain and lesser; to take on, in some sky
the space of dominion. Now Animated.
from within. Fully half of all ancestors
are women. Their brave, painted faces are hard
to know. The frame around mine,
and the frame around yours could melt – there was a song:
my grandma and your
sitting by the fire-
then one set the other’s flag ablaze.
It happens that our ancestors are moving
in small circles, in skirts, in their different
houses. Let us will them: Leave their houses.
Burn flags together. Ancestor worship— is veneration
of those dead, whose blood we believe
is threads through our own; that even now they hold sway
over the affairs of the living. Ahankara, in Buddhism
is the false identification
of the true inner spirit with the body,
or mind, or outside
It all burns off, except the wick, the promise
of fire. Are we ardent spirits,
like brandy and gin? I cannot picture
myself without a body. Dear
grandmama, most inflammable of
flammables; how is it I know
you are dancing like blazes in the waltz
of the beyond: when I spin, I burn; hands open, receiving
the gust of a gift called ardor.
B is for Blight
(an education for belles)
A Balalaika is a Russian instrument with a neck
like a guitar. Not to be confused
with balabaika: to talk nonsense, faradiddles hogwash.
Or balderdash (which is
bullshit, horseshit , but quite a bit
gentler– to babble
like a babe.)
It is important to know: a ball is a lavish, formal
party. Where belles cluster
by balustrades. But a ballotade is a way a horse moves,
drawing in the leg so the iron shoe shows.
Blackknot makes spots on cherries and plums.
Blackleg attacks the thighs of goats.
there can’t be belles
if there aren’t peasants. This is how one dances
in an age of plagues. Lets talk rot with our loving
baby’s breath. Let us mix
white columns, farces, masked balls, lame horses, whilst
bear knives on highways. Lace me my corsets?
Damsels must be protected
from farmhands’ handsy
gropes. With folded fans. With cordons. With ropes.