The Thesaurus Might Make Me Someone to Yearn For

A poem by Lara Lillibridge

Words on pages are cleaner than in my mouth.
I can’t enunciate,
my tongue is remembering
the taste of your regret.

My mouth cannot speak until the self-condemnation is silent.
Silence only comes when I am sleeping,
then I am unable to scream
and I wake up hissing.
I must find a more precise word for voiceless howling.
Words form in my chest that do not fit the shape of letters.

My brain-speak is littered with non-words:
irresurrectable, asituated, and other close-sounding words
that aren’t quite right.
I meant to be better educated.
A thesaurus might make me someone to yearn for.

My thesaurus suggests nag for torment and that’s not right.
The entry should read love.
The entry should read you.
The problem with finding your missing piece is that you are still fractional.
Claiming you was a plea for completion.

The right words might improve us.
Debauchery has a lilt at the edge of it.
Ignominy sounds fancier than shame, but already I misspeak it.
My tongue reshapes the word until it fits my mouth.
But Ignominy is hard to live under, even if you pronounce it correctly.

Obscurity is where we have always resided.
It would be easier to move away and start with a fresh lie.
But the remnants of our old lie are more honest.
Once we chose this life there were no un-slanted stories to tell.

I think you mean in one’s element when you say home with such yearning.
You sit next to me and still I long for you.
Tell me again what I can and cannot conjugate.
I’ll listen better this time.
What I mean to say is if I find the right words you will love me as much as____.

You have always loved an artist,
but I cannot paint bats or helicopters or other flying things.
I must write the words to ground us.
Show you the flowers I cannot draw.
Here is my stamen, here is my stigma.
Let the words be enough.

Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In March of 2016 she was a top 5 finalist for DisQuiet’s literary prize in Creative Nonfiction, judged by Phillip Graham. She has had essays published in Pure Slush (Vol. 11), Vandalia, and Polychrome Ink; on the web at Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, Airplane Reading, Thirteen Ways to Tell a Story, Weirderary, and Brain, Child Magazine‘s Brain, Mother blog. Some of her recent essays have been published in Hippocampus and Luna Luna. You can view some of her work at her website,, catch up with her blog at the Huffington Post, and follow her on Twitter @only_mama.