Triple Word Score.

That's now the second time I've read my poetry in front of a live audience, and a successful evening, at that -- people applauded, thanked me afterwards, and I'm still shaking a little bit from the adrenaline. Not a bad rush for ten minutes of stage time!

Or maybe I'm just shaking from nerves, because I finished writing one of my poems forty-five minutes before the show started. I'm looking forward to the next reading, but I really should start work on my one a bit earlier... still , I was still pretty happy with it.

My motivation for this came from Scrabble. I like playing the game, and I'm fairly good at it, but there's something about it that just gnaws at my soul: its official dictionary. In Scrabble, "al" is a perfectly valid word, meaning "a type of plant found in Malaysia, more commonly called a morinda". "Ut" is a legal word as well, since it was used instead of "Do" in the original set of French solmization tones, i.e. Ut Re Mi Fa So La Ti Ut.

And yet, "pH" isn't a word. Neither is "blog", or "manga", or "ebola". I mean, I can appreciate that "ginormous" and "chillax" aren't accepted, but even then, the linguistic landscape would notice their absence a bit more than that of "qursh", a variant of "qirsh", which was a coin used by the Ottoman Empire.

If I may speak plainly, that's ridiculous. It becomes even more so when you look at two-letter words, which seem to fall into three categories:

-normal word
-a term describing some strange scientific curiosity (e.g. "al", mentioned earlier)
-a term describing some early 20th century spiritual buzzword (e.g. "ki", or "chi", as it's known today)

I look at those lists, and I see the turn of the century, when ouija boards and seances were starting to gain in popularity, and an explorer to "The Dark Continent" could still pack lecture halls full of people wanting to hear tales of how he fearlessly shot thirty elephants. It's an odd dichotomy, where occultism was starting to rise just as readily as scientific discovery. And so, I tried to blend the two together in a poem. Here it is:

Come join hands, and sit round the table
Put out the candles, they're afraid of the glow
we'll soon have them tasked to hear what you ask;
concentrate now, and prepare for the show.

There's a sloth eating leaves off the coast of Brazil,
mosses take root in its back as we speak.
Growing more green so as not to be seen;
Wait, did you hear? Something made the floors creak!

Up in the arctic, the Faroese ships
battle the whirlwinds that swallow the sea.
There are thunders and gales that scare even the whales;
but hold on, a pharaoh is talking to me!

At the volcano's base, the lava field cools
in ribbons and razors and bubbles and shards.
Its fiery sash covers islands in ash;
The phoenix's spirit, though, lies in these cards.

It seems tonight's poltergeists don't want to parley,
perhaps our feng shui has left something amiss;
Depressing, I know, that you've nowhere to go,
How sad that our world is as boring as this.

Incidentally, the sloth is an "ai", the whirlwind is an "oe", and the lava is "aa". And now, thanks to Google archiving this blog post, I've justified their existence for another few decades.


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About The Author

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.