Eating the Thesaurus (A List)


St Clements Press Building interior, c1959


Your breath is perfumed with language.  Words eke out when you exhale.  I stand near you and smell the saltiness of consonants and the sweetness of vowels.

I dream one night that Borges and I stand face to face in his library in Buenos Aires.

“You must reorganize your books,” he says.   His eyes track my own to make sure I understand what he means.

“Move your books.  The ones filled with words.”

Stern, stern Borges.  His pupils eat the light that ekes through the library windows.

“All of them?” I ask.


I own two thesauruses.  I call them my boyfriends.  One boyfriend talks a great deal.  He knows so many colorful stories.  The other boyfriend is thicker and dumber, but more specific in his tale telling.  I love them both for different reasons.

With these two boyfriends, I eke out sentences.  I pare away rough language.  I dream of pure meaning tightly wound in a single sentence like wire around a spool.

Sometimes I think that instead of being what we eat, we are the words we consume.

I consume thesauruses, page by page.

Dense clusters of language eke through my red blood cells, mix with the oxygenated gasses in my lungs, and eventually appear as black ink sweat on my brow.

I was standing at the bus stop on the day I smelled your thesaurus-scented breath.  I did not know you, nor did you know me.

And yet, I turned to you and I said, “I dreamed that Jorge Luis Borges told me to rearrange all one thousand, five hundred of my books.”

You rubbed your fingers together to eke warmth into your hands.  You looked at me through, and over, your glasses.  “I think you should do it.”

“Did I really meet Borges?  Does ‘dream Borges’ count?”

“Oh,” you said.  The bus rounded the corner with a wheeze.  “‘Dream Borges’ always counts.”


Jorge Luis Borges was a writer and a librarian and a thinker. Fascinating man. His last name is pronounced BOOR-HESS.