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
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
and that guilt and grief are both
5-letter words which, combined, become
a synonym for inconsolable.