Even Naomi was struck by the success of her "Dial-A-Poem" phone service. People called in from all over - tongue-tied lovers, wives in need of lines for a birthday card, husbands for apologies in verse, marketing people and copy writers looking for a snappy tagline, students and scholars who'd forgotten who wrote this sonnet or that, even the rare poet who'd lost his muse. One of them kept asking over and over for Ciberio's Canto Erotico, to be read in the traditional fashion — slowly and with the occasional wet smacking of the lips, whereby he'd end the call with heavy breathing and sobs after, invariably, the notorious Third Movement. An ad-man spent an expensive hour exploring rhyming couplets with the word "radish" in it; no easy task, and Naomi caught some of them being used in a jingle by a pharmaceutical startup a month later, although she couldn't sue. She'd saved at least two confirmed marriages with Lee Xuan's Haikus of Regret, and thwarted one suicide by walking him through Jalawi's Water Epic line by line until help arrived. Her favourites were probably the mothers who called to ask for poems to encourage or console their children (this peaked during the examination months), especially those with unborn children, who'd sometimes be named after the sestina or ballad she would have patiently recited over the phone to a receiver, pressed lightly to some softly pulsing, burgeoning womb. On exceptional occasions, Naomi's been tempted to make up her own titles and verses, instead of relying on her prodigious memory of obscure classics - after all, who would know better? - but her conscience always gets the better of her when she thinks of all those words already buried and untended in the vault of her mind and heart, wanting nothing more than to be free, and for a while to be useful and cherished.

10 June 2003   23:25 hours
the girl who could love you { } on literary definition