Danielle Blau

Hapax Legomenon
May 25, 2020 Blau Danielle

Hapax Legomenon


Literally “thing said once,” hapax legomenon refers to a word that appears in a text on only one occasion. When the text is an ancient one in a dead language, hapax legomena create difficulties in decipherment, since inferring the meaning of a given word from its context becomes increasingly uncertain the fewer examples of the word there are in existence.
She said, Last night really
was hapax legomenon, which I
nodding, took
(with the ricocheted
door, plus the draft let in)
to mean: bound to
not happen again.
Well, more
than enough
on my
plate, thank you, without her & her
outlandish diction, what
with this toilsome coupling
of referents & names: every
day, I swear, worse than
the last & every last
day worse than Tolstoy. Say, why
not call
the lot of us Anna
Alexandrovna Ivanovna Stetlovna & go
whole hog, hmm? Who
could have told much
difference, given
how unrelenting the present
demand for
marginalia is
on a man
wishing simply
to follow
the gist! Yet no matter where
he turns: things
sloughing off their
terms; signs freshly
threshed from
the chaff of events — oh, did it ever get
cut &
dried each
passing year I
lived: this world’s
a wicked wheat field.


But what
about her: good as her
word? Ha! Hardly
could leave
alone, it seems, dear
thing. As a Kurdish boy (gently
sprouting acne, touchingly
bent on calling me
Sir) she’d often come
to read
my meter
& then — that one
April (glistening, brief) —
a hurt starling, she
made her
below my eaves deep in my walls I felt her walk I felt her limp her listing
lovelorn pulse
— not to mention
the guy (I’m all but certain)
at the market last week who sold me

sturgeon; she said, Since
prehistoric age unchanged

which, nodding, I                took to mean: this fish
is eaten      poached
or braised.

Danielle Blau’s Rhyme or Reason: Poets, Philosophers, and the Problem of Being Here Now is forthcoming from W.W. Norton, and her chapbook mere eye — published with an introduction by poet D.A. Powell — was selected for a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Award. Poems, fiction, and essays by Blau can also be found in The Atlantic, The Literary Review, Narrative Magazine, The Paris Review, and elsewhere.