The Men Who Write the Dictionary

by Karen McKnight 

Mozart plays softly on a phonograph
as a dark circle of old, old men in
Victorian burgundy leather chairs
hunch over their literature and
smoke pipes around a tall,
tall fireplace. 

Knobby, wrinkled, itching fingers
scan the pages of scientific journals
and teen magazines
as the men inhale the curly smoke
in their heated search:
this priapistic hunt for new words. 

They have a guest speaker every other Wednesday,
their melancholy meetings
libido bleach stained momentarily by the
sun-bright highlights in the salty hair
of hot-pink-t-shirt-wearing girls who 

– backpacks on backs and flowered flip-flops on feet –
will get extra credit in their language arts
class for teaching some prurient old men a few
lip-glossy waves of new vocabulary. 

A pretty little Aunt Jemima-like woman
brings sweet potato pie on Thursdays,
which they eat as she whispers
new salacious locutions
into these aging bachelors’ ears
and offers them a little sugah.
Some are words that her street-ball-playin’
nephew would never say at home
if he knew she understood them. 

On Fridays they have Barbara Streisand movie marathons
until midnight when the grey and concupiscent
dictionarians tremble with a little
more than intellectual excitement
as that big-haired lady from The Nanny arrives
to give a speech about the effects of coffee
on the bilabial vocal patterns
and resultant palaver eroticism
of the cream-cheese-eating,
Wall Street reading
members of society.