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Thesaurus Analysis

Author: poem of Billy Collins Type: poem Views: 4

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It could be the name of a prehistoric beast

that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up

on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,

or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

It means treasury, but it is just a place

where words congregate with their relatives,

a big park where hundreds of family reunions

are always being held,

house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs,

all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;

hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy

all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,

inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile

standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.

Here father is next to sire and brother close

to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.

And every group has its odd cousin, the one

who traveled the farthest to be here:

astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven

syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.

Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.

I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.

I rarely open it, because I know there is no

such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous

around people who always assemble with their own kind,

forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors

while others huddle alone in the dark streets.

I would rather see words out on their own, away

from their families and the warehouse of Roget,

wandering the world where they sometimes fall

in love with a completely different word.

Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever

next to each other on the same line inside a poem,

a small chapel where weddings like these,

between perfect strangers, can take place.


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