For Christine: Nugatory


After my poem that made use of the word “negatory,” which Christine Goodnough questioned; she challenged me to write a poem about the word “nugatory,” which I admit, I had to look up.  This is the result:

Not Quite Heaven

All the streets of purgatory
are lined with words like “nugatory”­­­­
that somehow just aren’t used quite right
so share the sinner’s sorry plight
by going to an “almost place”
before they reach their state of grace.
They’re obscure words you nearly know.
You aren’t quite sure, but even so,
you use them in a sentence that
does not work right off the bat.
You see that folks are looking wary,
then consult the dictionary
to find that you meant “Negatory,”
which completes your little story
better than its near-homonym
that’s left you looking rather dim.
The lesson, wordsmith? It’s absurd
to go ahead and use a word
you don’t quite know the meaning of.
You cannot merely push and shove
any word into a place
and think that you can show your face
in realms wherein the erudite
correctly scribe and speak and cite
words in their proper domain.
So please, don’t misuse words again.
Take it easy, just go slow
until you find a word you know.
“Almost there” just doesn’t do.
Be a gourmand. Avoid word stew.

Negatory: having the nature of negation, negative.(Much beloved by truckers.)

Nugatory: of no value or importance. Useless, futile. (I admit, I had to look it up!!)





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