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The Cruciverbalist

ISSUE:  Summer 2003

  —for Carol Folger 1956—2001

Sunday afternoon, New York: Times
quarter-folded, a calico cat purring
on her lap, she sips a third cup of tea,
nibbles her pencil eraser, puzzled
by the way felon makes “some lips”
pulsed not pursed, wondering
if juror is what’s meant
by “his verdict is read.”

Say “bay” is leaf, then “spry” could be frisky.
But if “spry” is lively then “bay”
must be howl. And thinking “Sappho” Aeolian
rather than aeonian, puts an L in bent,
making “off-kilter” belt.

Such serious pleasure in the tangle
of clues and meanings,
this knitting together of letters like a scarf.
She loves how words work at cross-purposes,
how “buckle” can mean fasten or fallin,
“livid” both pale and blue.

How “mad about” is love or hate, depending
upon “refrain” meaning stop
or song. And through hazard,
loss, pain, and evil
hope appears.


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