Tuesday, March 3, 2015


(This feature is part of TRUCK’s Theme Issue on the List or Catalog Poem. You can go HERE for an Index of the Participating Poets.)

A Partial List of Omissions

Here between Spain and Technetium we should find, for instance, the genus Spalax, those blind mole rats whose eyes are completely covered by a layer of skin; their eyes are eyes in God’s memory alone. Here too one should learn about undesirable electronic messages and pork-based mystery meats of whose name I have no need to remind you. In Spaoh, in the state of Sarwak, I would have you know, a salted pufferfish known as Ikan Masin Buntal is the local delicacy. And wouldn’t it be nice to be shown how to prepare spätzle, whether savory or sweet? Speed of light, speed of sound, speed metal—where are they when we need them? Spin doctors, spin-offs, and spinning jennies belong here too, along with the stab-in-the-back-myth or Dolchstoßlegende according to which the German army would have won the Great War had it not been betrayed by the country's craven civilians, and statology, that pagan worship of the state proclaimed by Giovannie Gentile in the name of Mussolini and decried by Pope Pius XI--all these layered together between a book's covers like a submarine sandwich, which likewise remains to be described, as does the residence of the medieval kings of Hungary, the city of Székesfehérvár, now occupied by Ford and IBM, among others. Teabagging, once mentioned in Sex in the City, is considered nonconsensual in the context of hazing rituals. In Tebnine, east of Tyre, the inhabitants often dress fashionably and hang out in various cafes of an evening.

Other volumes may ignore, or so I imagine, the Abenaki, among whom there are no tribes recognized as such by the Bureau of Indian Affairs; perhaps the district of Atocha in Madrid is mentioned but not its railway station, which we are forever leaving. And what of the river Bzyb, in whose upper reaches grows the colorful bellflower Campanula mirabilis, whose profuse growth of one hundred flowers per plant has earned it the title of "Queen of Abkhazian flora?” Or of Denys Corbet, the “last poet” of Guernésiais? Likewise I’ll wager you’d seek in vain for Tad Dameron, evening gowns, Gebirgsjäger, Louis Hjelmslev, or kalimbas. Not that I’ve looked. But imagined omissions are not necessarily imaginary ones. Muar, the hub of the Indonesian furniture industry, boasts four Pizza Huts, but in none of them can you purchase ptasie mleczko, a chocolate-covered meringue or milk soufflé candy whose Polish name signifies “unobtainable delicacy.” Still, none of these can be found missing from an Encyclopedia volume covering Spain through Technetium, and likewise only elsewhere would we feel the absence of ubiquinol, Watts, or the Supreme Court’s decision in Yates v. United States, which J. Edgar Hoover declared "the greatest victory the Communist Party in America ever received," let alone any hint that the word “zydeco” might derive from the delicious phrase Les haricots ne sont pas salés.


[First featured in The Funk & Wag from A to Z: Mel Chin, with poetry edited by Nick Flynn (Yale University Press, 2014)   


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