There's a haunting similarity between having the word,
but not the meaning, and having the meaning, but not
the word. The first often befalls a child, who hears words,
knows they are important, but not quite what they mean.
The second applies more to us elders (I'm 62 now -- am I
old?), who know exactly what we mean, but often grope
for an old familiar word, grown estranged, as it does
for a child who repeats it rapidly, many times.
(In the beginning was the word; later comes the blankness.)
There should be a science with a fancy name (lexamnesiology?)
for word-grope -- or tip-of-the-tongueness. It would consider
various stages of groping, have a name for remembering
it starts with an "m," when, in fact, it turns out to
with an "r," but contains a prominent "m" sound;
a name for remembering the word's color, but not
its sound; a name for the panicky, stuttering desperation
as one tries for it, calling out words, no, that's not it,
getting mad, cursing the unfaithful slut of a word;
a name for the way, when it comes to you,
you fondle it with the tongue, repeating it, as if to say,
"Good word, I'll never never forget you again, wonderful word!"
a name for the phenomenon of giving up
and having the word pop up (quite casually, as if saying,
"Oh, were you looking for MOI?") next day in
mid-waking or while you're chatting, reading, having sex... --
why at this time or that?-- popping up when least expected,
like the police in "Law and Order, coming to arrest you
as you present an award at a banquet or dragging you
from a lover's arms, or (I always like to give you
a choice of similes) like Monty Python's
Note: I'm sure if this poem finds readers that
several of them will refer me to a website that defines in great
detail all the terms for the many forms of what I call "lexamnesiology"
Have you noticed the glee with which the cops on the various
"Law and Order" shows make arrests at the worst possible
times for the arrestees? So far they've resisted the temptation
(unless I missed that show) to haul someone off the toilet in handcuffs.
For those who don't know about Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition:
on one of their shows, they began with a silly skit about the Spanish
Inquisition, in which the Inquisition shows up unexpected, and in
reply to being told it wasn't inspected, the head honcho cries out
"NO one expects the Spanish Inquisition!", which, at first,
seems a lame punchline, but then other skits follow, set in diverse
times and places, and each at its key moment is interrupted by the
arrival of the Spanish Inquisition (in 14th Century dress, arriving
at, for example, a 20th Century tea party, that sort of thing),
accompanied by "NO one expects the Spanish Inquisition,"
and by the end of the show, this lame silliness is damned funny
to those of us who find it so.