Erasure: From the Dictionary of Riddles

Dictionary of Riddles, Mark Bryant, 1990, p. 80

12/1/2017

[Photo to come!]

Riddle me, riddle me, riddle me

I never was, am always to be,

Who live and breathe

never released, and yet used

 

What runs all day and all night?

What is it that never moves?

What never comes back?

What never comes?

What never? 

 

the water never touches 

the water

 

the sun making a shadow

all day facing home

smoother than any rhyme,

loves to fall but cannot climb

 

a lot of noise

you can’t hear

 

sing a melody, a song

go on  

 

If you feed it

If you give it water

 

I’m in everyone’s way,

I stop;

 

What has a head but cannot think? 


This was a really fun, but odd, text to use for an erasure. Riddles are so poetic already, many of them having meter and rhyme built in since they originate as oral "texts." The book's title beckoned to me from its spine with a crooked finger, already such a fantastic title for a poem. Dictionary of Riddles? Ah yes, that was the chapbook that won the Yale prize. 

The elliptic and questioning structure of riddles also made this feel like "cheating." One of my writing habits (ruts? strategies?) is to pepper my text with questions. (See how how I did that?) Readers often tell me that I have a few questions too many. I don't know—WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Most answers to riddles are mundane: A clock. The wind. A belt. A horse taking a nap. I like that through this erasure, there emerges the sense of something sinister and likely monstrous. Some kind of trapped demon. The sun and the water and the noise all acting strangely. Or rather, their behaviors rendered strange. 

I couldn't help photocopying at least 4 pages from this book, so there may be more mysteries from the dictionary of riddles still to come. Not least of which, a couple pages of answers, which just read like fantastical lists of randomly generated text. Yeah, this is definitely cheating.