Musings #22

WORD PLAY

I remember mother working crossword puzzles,

sipping instant coffee, lightened

with Carnation evaporated milk.

I never helped her fill in the blanks,

and it took a long time

before I stopped misinterpreting

the words she said to me.

Longer still to play her game.

Not until the visit when my friend Surrey

asked, What’s a 4-letter word

for an Egyptian goddess?

Isis, I replied, pleased to know. Since then

I’ve become obsessed.

Mornings, David and I don’t bicker

over politics or assign errands –

we converse in crosswords.

I ask, hammer part?

He says, peen.

Famous Dodger shortstop?

Peewee Reese. Bottle opener?

Corkscrew. Oh, I thought that word

describes the twisted lens of childhood

we all seem to look through.

Nowadays, my mood depends on

whether the words I’ve penciled in

make sense across and down.

Mother always wrote in pen.

I’ve noticed that today’s answer is often

tomorrow’s question,

that context matters

– is rose used as a verb or a noun? –

and one answer may hint at another

– loss is heartbreak, and morning,

the break of day.

Sometimes I discover

what I didn’t know I knew,

but more often I learn something new,

like that to utter an orison means

to pray

and that guilt and grief are both

5-letter words which, combined, become

a synonym for inconsolable.


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