Allison Thorpe

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Writer's Envy

I covet my neighbor's vocabulary.
I hide behind curtains and spy on him,
watch his lips flailing the air with ease,Artwork by Gene McCormick
imagine words like callipygian and saxicolous
flapping to light like heady moths.
In summer I open the windows,
let acumen, usufruct, cynosure
penetrate my screen on lofty breezes.

I crave the checkout girl's twang,
try to shape my character's mouth like hers,
but the vowels fall short, laboring tongue and teeth.
The y'alls come off stringy and hollow
like fish three days landed.
I buy more groceries than I need,
wait until the line is long,
let other people go ahead of me
hoping to grasp her nuances
until she catches me stalking her speech
and calls the store manager in fear.

I green eye the literary successes,
lurk the library for hours
worrying the novels and poems of masters,
trip besotted fingers over their words,
open mouth spittling the pages
as librarians gossip and point,
drive me from their kingdom
with newspaper sticks and access tools.

I hunger the dialect of my hair stylist,
watch her mouth miming words in the mirror,
get a side view of her jaw as she turns to talk to someone else,
love how her face grooves to questions like "Shorter, eh?"
how the top lip bows with each query
and I keep nodding yes, yes, oh yes
so she will say it again
until my curls lie on the floor like Rorschach animals.

I resent the mailman's heavy bag of adjectives,
want to relieve him of all the catalogs
overripe with description, the gush of story.
My head aches the embrace of fleecy, timeless, winsome,
or colors that fly beyond rainbow's spectrum:
bruised grape, cupcake sprinkle,
sandcastle dream, dolphin splash.

I sprawl park benches thirsting
words' woven laurels
hoping to seize the singsong cheer of couples,
the cooing burble of mothers,
the whine and wail of the troubled.
At times I follow children with missing teeth
trying to capture their lisping accents
until parents dial 911
and police surround me with the smooth caress
of suspect and arrest and slammer
or the hard poke of pesky or perpetrator,
immersing me in the brotherhood of their jargon.

Finally, alone in my room,
my body sloshing with sounds,
my brain drenched with possibilities,
an eagle winging dizzying heights,
a tide eternal in its fade and flow
until the black seed of dream
finally pulls the curtains tight.

The page waits white and speechless.


A widely published author, Allison Thorpe lives and writes in a stone house in the backwoods of Kentucky where she dreams of becoming an international poker player.