Note: If you don’t want to read the introduction, you can skip down to the poem.
This week’s Read Write Word Prompt was courtesy of guest celebrity poet Matthew Zapruder. He suggested to us that we use a mechanical process, generate some words, and then try to use those words together in a natural, authentic way. The process for this prompt was to start at a place in the dictionary and chose words moving backwards until we reached another specified point in the dictionary. This was a process used by poet Matthea Harvey to generate two poems, “Terror of the Future” and “The Future of Terror”, which appear in her book Modern Life.
I did it this way: I went to dictionary.com and, starting with the letter z, went backwards, picking one word per letter, and then skipping two letters to w to pick the next, then skipped to q…you get the point. The words I found in this process were: Zelos, warlordism, queerbait, new-collar, hand-to-mouth, ebow, and bald.
When I looked up information on Zelos (or Zelus, depending on the spelling), I found out that he is the ancient Greek personification of “dedication, emulation, eager rivalry, envy, jealousy, and zeal” and that the “English word “zeal” is derived from his name” (source: Wikipedia). He was the son of the Titan Pallas and Styx. He, along with his siblings Nike (victory), Cratos (strength), and Bia (force), were winged enforcers that stood in attendance at Zeus’ throne.
When I read this, two things came to my mind: 1) the similarity between them and the concept of cherabim and seraphim, which also stand around God’s throne in Christian cosmology, and 2) since Zelos personifies zeal, what would happen if he got loose and ran away to Earth? I went there, and now Nike’s looking for him. I hope you enjoy this fun romp through the dictionary, urban life, and Greek mythology.
I’ve spotted Zelos roving the streets lately. He’s
folded his wings, tucked them underneath the
soft black of his leather jacket. He thinks that he can
raise the banner of incognito over his head and let his
Olympian fire hide – but I can never mistake
the smoke signals escaping from the missives of footsteps
that he leaves on every sidewalk, those tiny snakelings of white vapor
bursting like ghosts out of broken, freshly dead chests and
curling themselves upward until they fade,
dying of disbelief in the cold. Wherever he goes, I see