This entry is part 32 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


Philavery /fil-a-vuh-ri/ n. An idiosyncratic collection of uncommon and pleasing words.

Unable to sleep till late (or early), I dithered
and tossed in the abstemious dark then clicked
on the lamp switch and sat up to read, finally
settling on my red-bound copy of Foyle’s Philavery
(a present from my daughters two Christmases ago).
I’m not sure how it is that my mind drifted
to the issue of consonants— specifically those
that bump up in threes in the middle of words,
like castaways on an island. They sit shoulder
to shoulder and pass the coconut shell dipper
from hand to hand as they count sharks’
triangles in the morning and punched tin lights
overhead at night, having given up any real
hope for rescue. By then I’d begun to find more
and more of these words– like “esssse,” which
was the way some medieval 14th century texts
spelled what we know today as “ash”; or, more
familiar: “rhythm”, “craftsmanship”, and “ironclad”
(the latter reminding me of the Battleship Wisconsin,
berthed at the riverfront not even a quarter mile
from where we live). So when my husband, grumbling,
asked if I would like a ham sandwich (notice the three
consonants snug in the middle there, not even needing
any mustard or mayo?), what could I do but nod my head
absently and muse aloud how it would be great if we had
some schnapps to go with that. While he was downstairs,
I’d drifted to Chelmno, a little town in Poland (its name
derives from an old Slavic word for hill), then wandered
some more afield, picking up a few hitch-hiking doubles
to keep company with the others: one sweet-talking
beekeeper, one slightly facetious bookkeeper, one gay
gypsy who’d been to Albuquerque. When morning
arrived, they marveled at the sight of a snowpack
glowing in soft light. I knew that a dog was barking
somewhere in the hills of Pennsylvania, and hoped he
would not cause an avalanche. When snow and ice melt,
they feed the rivers and the streams, but sometimes
cause flooding. You wake when you hear a resonant
knock in the dark, even though it could be only a woodpecker.
But then it could also be the sound of a new door opening.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

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