Tearing Through the Dictionary for the Meaning of Levant

By Carol Hamilton

It seemed the opposite of Orient:
“North, South, Orient, Levant.”
Huge dictionaries can surprise,
and the word shot off light splinters
like our sparklers on your deck
at Fourth of July midnight,
the air heavy with moisture
from the lake as we watched
the lighted motorboats slip homeward
as smoothly as water striders.
There is a touch of levitation
in the definitions, also,
breaking camp, pulling up stakes,
or the spoiler who slips away
while his gambling debts stay behind.
A fine grade of rock so named, too.
But mostly it is an eastern shore
or eastern weather slipping
a moist gray shawl over everything
from the Adriatic to Gibraltar
to the Canary Islands while
I was expecting the opposite.
Stacked together, my two dictionaries
replicate each other in most things,
but like identical twins each
has unique features not to be lost.
I have never desecrated a dictionary
before, except with overuse,
and neither looks its younger best.
But now I’ve torn this paper chunk
out of the elder just to carry all
the contrasts found to a brighter light.
Orient, Levant. The lever of this word
has pried up many stones this morning,
and perhaps I’ll Scotch tape this fragment
back into place on its etymological map.

Tearing Through the Dictionary — 2

I did it, so now it appears to be
the repair of an accident.
On its reverse there is a bit of overlap
at lewd and lettuce and
letters of credence.
The latter is probably something
you should never quite trust.
Words and appearances
are really quite slippery.

Carol Hamilton is a former poet laureate of Oklahoma who has published children’s novels, legends and poetry. She has recent and upcoming publications in a number of literary magazines.


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