“Abecedary” — Tom Disch

“Abecedary”

by

Tom Disch


A is an Apple, as everyone knows.
But B is a …. What do you suppose?
A Bible? A Barber? A Banquet? A Bank?
No, B is this Boat, the night that it sank.
C is its Captain, and D is its Dory,
While E – But first let me tell you a story.
There once was an Eagle exceedingly proud
Who thought it would fly, in the Form of a cloud —
Yes, E is for Eagle, and F is for Form,
And G is the Grass that got wet in the storm
When the cloud that the Egale unwisely became
Sprinkled our hero and all of his fame
Over ten acres of upland plateau.
So much for that story. Now H. Do you know?
H is the Hay that was made from the Grass,
And I’s the Idea of going to Mass,
Which is something that only a Catholic would do.
Jews go to Synagogue. J is a Jew.
K is for Kitchen as well as for Kiss,
While L is for all of the black Licorice
You can eat in an hour without feeling ill.
M is for Millipede, Millet, and Mill.
The first is an insect, the second a grain,
The third grinds the second: it’s hard to explain
Such a process to children who never have seen it —
So let’s go to the country right now! YEs, I mean it.
We’re leaving already, and N is the Night
We race through to reach it, while P is the Plight
Of the people (Remember?) who sailed in that Boat
That is still, by a miracle, somehow afloat!
(Oh dear, I’ve just nocied I’ve overlooked O:
O’s an Omission and really should go
In that hole – do you see it? – between N and P.
No? It’s not there now? Dear O, pardon me.)
Q is the Question of how far away
A person can travel in one single day,
And whether it’s worth it, or might it be better
To just stay at home and write someone a letter?
R’s are Relations, a regular swarm.
Now get out of the car – we’ve arrived at their farm!
S is the Sight of a Thanksgiving feast,
And T is the Turkey, which must weight at least
Thirty pounds. U is Utopia. V …
V simply Vanishes – where, we can’t see –
While W Waves from its Westernmost isle
And X lies exhausted, attempting to smile.
There are no letters left now but Y and then Z.
Y is for You, dear, and Z is for me.

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