by Jill McDonough
published in The Threepenny Review
I love teaching people how to use a dictionary,
watch them get faster than out-of-practice me,
watch them learn ambivalent or incarceration,
use them in their own new sentences. I teach men
and women in jail how to annotate a text,
underline the words that they don’t know yet,
look them up in dictionaries I bring in for them to keep. Indigo,
heft, cobbles, ostensibly: words they learn while we go
through stories, essays, poems. Kings used to make
water magic by pouring it over carved tablets, then take
the water in their mouths to make carved words come true.
These students run their fingers over the lines, move
their lips to make the words belong to them:
allure, billow, gypsum, joist. Resentment and regret.