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Might Have Been   

                           According to me, the distinctive faculty of the active
or intelligent being is to be able to give a sense to
the word is.
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau
He might have been a tightrope artist who told time with a toothpick.
He might have been a zookeeper
who restored the thirsty penguins.
He might have been an engineer
who stroked suspension bridges.
He might have been Fred Astaire’s wardrobe assistant,
donning and doffing a sunset-sherbet shirt.
He might have been a garbage collector on Garden Street;
he’d pocket forlorn gangrene lollipops.
He might have been a ping-pong player
with a raging wrist.
He might have been a choreographer
whose narrow limbs absorbed the stealthy backstage dark.
He might have been a dolphin trainer;
his skin is ethical and sheeny.
He might have been an officious postal clerk:
weigh and lick, weigh and lick—just perfect.
He might have been
a rueful tuba player.
He might have been a commercial animator
rescuing rinky-dink maidens from Amtrak derailments.
He might have been an editorial writer
who derided vestal vermin.
He might have swept the dust anxiously
from Woolworth’s, his pinkie cramping.
He might have translated the American Constitution
into passionate, garbled Swedish.
He might have considered
changing his profession.
He might have consulted an expert.
Oft consulted, he might have become the expert.
He might have been appointed boss
of all the continents.
He might have refused
to recognize any of them.
He is manifest and active.
He has decided to do nothing.


                        Look again at the dictionary. There beyond a doubt 
lie plays more splendid than Antony and Cleopatra; poems
more lovely than the Ode to a Nightingale; novels beside which
Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield are the crude bunglings
of amateurs. It is only a question of finding the right words and
putting them in the right order.
—Virginia Woolf
Broost [verb] To make new words, I have to use old words. The old are            
not inept. But I object. Or they demur. What are we good for, together            
or apart? Well, at my very least, I can broost new words.

Misters [noun] Clouds are clouds, I know. Yet I prefer to believe they            
tinker a species: one of a fulsome tribe summoned not only because we            
might wish it to be, but actually also made of wishes and no more. Wishful entirely.
     Clouds of the Mister menageries would be given the right to make choices            
about musculature, the charm of eyelids. Tails. Portals. Unlike others            
in nature, this one of mine would be silent as the sky.
     The point is to be invented a bit, by the one you were meant to make.            
     My cloud becomes me after dinner, when the other clouds have lunged            
away someplace—left to bloom in doorways or lean upon a spire.            
Others have wafted out to ago. They wrap Edwardians. They crowd Cannes.            
They can sneak around bossy rectangular clocks and never get caught.            
They chase after summer sleighs, sighing with light.

Inkfrit [proper noun] A new dessert of Baltic origin, the inkfrit came to beset a 
modern-day Persephone when she opened the icebox one day and found the 
following ingredients: a cuttlefish; cloudberries (a pint);two dozen brown eggs; 
cellophane noodles; mint jelly from the Appenines; one cup of ground roast almonds. 
The cuttlefish conferred a billow of unreadable blue, dark, what another would 
probably call “black.” The almonds gave transportation to the mint.
     Once she had separated all the eggs and beaten the wiles until stiff, she could give 
the cloudberries a roost. Although unpopular as an ingredient of sweets, the cellophane 
noodles could serve a purpose, too. What? Oh, tie it up.
     The name of the dessert, when looked at from the other end of a telescope:            
“Spotted World.” And yet.
     When Persephone tried to package it for restaurateurs, she found thefare rebuffed.
     Since then, she’s retitled it: inkfrit.

Coggle [verb] To think for the short term is better than to think for            
the long term. The long term may not last. “Never.” “Near.”            
“Perhaps.” My antique lexicon is filled with speculations.
     The absolute stroke of “maybe,” and the doom of “next”:            
all such define our midden earth. Coggling means to think sharp in the moment, 
then drop it.

Iffema [noun] A fray that dares not speak its name; the underside of            
heard. Stray grouping. Will it disperse? Soon?

Lennigan [adverb] “Do it lennigan.” So goes the advice she            
received from Uncle Luke. You can grill anything!

About the author: Molly McQuade has been writing nonsense for some time. Her prose 
and poetry have appeared in Parnassus, The New Criterion, Fence, BOMB, Poetry, 
Mississippi Review, and others. She is writing something now called Not a Dictionary.

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