Thursday Writing: A brief and irreverent note on the abuse of words

Cheap tissueSome weeks ago, Erik and I went to a discount grocery store and came home with a few boxes of no-name tissue. They were adorned with a cheesy but inoffensive low-budget rose print, and they were cheap, so: all good.

Then, while eating breakfast one morning, I stared at one of the boxes and noticed what I hadn’t seen before.

“Erik,” I said. “Did you know there are words on here?”

“No,” he said. “What do they say?”

I read aloud, “‘A caper in the trees. And I’m a rose! A sepal, petal, and a thorn upon a common summer’s morn…'”

“Oh god,” said Erik.

I continued, “‘A flash of dew, a bee or two, a breeze. A caper in the trees…’ Who do you suppose writes this stuff?”

“They must be writing the descriptions on all the other stuff in the supermarket too,” he said. “And then someone told them they had to decorate a tissue box.”

We gazed at the box, appalled.

Cheap tissue close-upErik reached for the box and looked at it more closely. “Ugh, and it’s in that font.”

The words ran around and around the box in elaborate cursive script, a wannabe-romantic font to go with the roses. We hadn’t noticed the text at first because it was printed in blue… on a blue background.

“It’s almost as if the people who made this knew how bad this was,” I said, “and tried to hide the words so you can barely read them.”

Thereafter, we mocked the pseudo-poetry whenever it occurred to us. Sometimes I would be brushing my teeth and I’d see “And I’m a rose!” and shudder all over again.

This morning Erik read me the poem again, in spite of my protests that I did not need to hear it. I rolled my eyes and made blaaarghh noises, but then a terrible thought struck me.

“Wouldn’t it be awful if this were actually, like, Shelley or someone?” I asked.

“I’m going to Google it,” said Erik, and went to get his laptop.

I kept on eating my toast and doing my morning pages, and then heard a noise and looked up to see Erik’s aghast expression.

“What? What?”

“It’s… Emily Dickinson.”

“No!” I gasped. “Oh, dear Emily!”

“But they’ve messed it up. Here, look.” He swiveled the screen toward me, to reveal the following poem:

A sepal — petal — and a thorn

Upon a common summer’s morn —

A flask of Dew — A Bee or two —

A breeze — a caper in the trees —

And I’m a Rose!

“‘Flask of dew’ makes so much more sense than ‘flash,'” Erik noted.

“Poor Emily!” I sighed.

I don’t think we can buy tissues from the grocery outlet anymore.

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I’ll post a personal entry later, if I have time, and on tomorrow’s Open Mic we’ll have our first guest post from a nonwriter! See you then!