Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Apples and Pears and Poems

Sometimes just to be silly, I call a poem a pome. I wrote the word in an e-mail to my brother a few days ago. He wrote back, “That’s not a word! You misspelled it.” He just thought I made a typo. I knew I’d heard it before, so I looked it up.

According to Merriam-Webster, the word pome refers to “a fleshy fruit (as an apple or pear) consisting of an outer thickened fleshy layer and a central core with usually five seeds enclosed in a capsule.” It comes to us from Middle English—pume, Anglo-French—pomme, and Latin—pomum. In French today, pomme is the word you’d use if you asked for an apple. A pomme de terre, apple of the earth, is a potato.

It is not surprising that the word has medieval roots. After all, nothing like that just comes popping up out of nowhere here in the twenty-first century. We often think we originate quite a number of things.

Now, if you think about it, a poem is not so different from an apple or a pear. It has a sweet, juicy central core and some seeds to plant.

The picture comes from Acclaim Photography web site.

Monday, September 08, 2008

An Old Prejudice

One night I came out of class late, the last to leave. I headed toward my car, which was waiting for me in the small parking lot across the street from our building on the edge of the community college campus.

As I locked the building, I noticed a fox ambling along, minding his own business, toward the center of the parking lot. He was just past the edge, going into the large circle of light cast by the sentry lamp. He was humming and chuckling in fox language as he thought of nothing in particular.

Then I saw on the other side of the parking lot’s circle of light, a skunk sauntering toward him, just as preoccupied with his own night-time errands, stopping now and then to study a cricket or a june bug on the pavement.

Suddenly they looked up and saw each other at exactly the same moment. The air around them filled with bristling shock as they both came to a screeching halt. I could almost hear them saying, “Omigosh, what will I do now?” They both turned and bolted away into the darkness.

What happened? Some ancient prejudice based on fear rose up and grabbed them by their throats, apparently. It reminded me of people I have seen.