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“What Is the Wholesale Price of The Traveler’s Vade Mecum?”

ISSUE:  Fall 2012

The Traveler’s Vade Mecum, Line #8206

In 1853, A. C. Baldwin published The Traveler’s Vade Mecum, a compendium of more than 8,000 phrases that could be referenced by number, creating a code for communications over long distances.


I intend to converse with many. None in the same room.
I have a daughter to search for, an acre of farmland to sell.
I must confirm that flour is falling and copper is rising;
I must offer my compliments to the ladies.
I will be refusing all medical advice, except for that
of gentlemen known for their punctuality. Where can I find you
in this city? In this parish? In this Gypsy market with dirt floors?

If some think me babbling, imagine how a game of chess
appears to one who has only ever known a checkerboard.

I own one suit for going South and another for going under.
I traveled before I was born, and will travel after I die.
They will come together, each clutching their copies,
and raid my library. Beside Your love is reciprocated,
they will find four tickmarks. Beside I am fond of loneliness,
they will find fifteen. A wrought-iron gate makes beautiful
not its bars, but the spaces between its bars. Without structure

there can be no mystery. Dear sirs, thank you for this service.
You have shaken down the Garden of Eden for its seeds.


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