LOVE SONG FOR PYROMANIACS AND LIBRARIANS
The game is pick quick and decide you’ve won.
I’m studying tricks to break the dictionary’s
hold; I’m drawing flowcharts for how to field
questions like We’re making plans to burn
your latest essays; the order’s been written,
so how do you feel? Well, I feel the world’s
a fine place for a book burning. Whirled
by your latest regarding how to fill one
volume when what’s required is two, I’ve written
an exposé titled Forget his Old Dictionary—
the Devil’s got a New Copywriter. If I burned
a love song that went up like a farmer’s field,
would you love me, armored, when we’re battle-filled?
My best tactic’s direct assault, but the world’s
lost faith in Sherman’s and Hannibal’s burn-
crusades—advertised as The Battle’s Already Won
and the Bird’s Still in the Oven. All the dictionaries
agree: secret messages should be written
in blood. So we loaded blanks and faked it. Writ in
the language, historians will later claim, of field
workers and machinists, the pair’s dictionary
wreaked havoc in classrooms around the world.
Readers are likely to confuse the two sides: one’s
a clever witch posing on her stick; I’m just a burn-
out in the last stages of system-failure. Burn
me a river and I’ll say sorry for all I’ve written
in bathroom stalls. Third floor: There once
was a girl from Chartres / Who walked through a field
stealing hearts. / Her hips looked the world /
Like a boat’s sails unfurled, / But in the dictionary
she’s under “tarts.” You can find in this dictionary
detailed instructions on how best to burn
old cathedrals down or diagrams of imaginary world
war technology—but they probably got written
off as a paranoid’s dream. Sorry. You’re the grass field
hiding a hundred tunnels, and I’m the one
with one dumb arm in the dictionary’s maw, field-
stripped, storm-burnt, accident-written, secret-whirled.
Daniel Carter‘s chapbook, Here Both Sweeter, won the Wick Chapbook Contest and is forthcoming from Kent State University Press. Another chapbook, This Apparatus, is forthcoming from Furniture Press.