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Etymology of Chlorophyll

Caroline Harper New

If fingernails could dig you like lichen
from my lexicon. In illness, I lop what is left
of you from my tongue, knowing to eliminate
is to loiter and loiter is in the same language

as love. As laceration. As love. We both used to

say as much though I admit at first
I pretended not to. I love—you lyre?
I love—you lick? I love—you
limp and lily-dark, you lovely
lump. Lewd as lamb. You say I was a lark

laid warm by my wingbones to your chest.
What do you expect? From this angle
a beak can do nothing but say, and certain languages

are sharpest dangled by the roots. Love,
from Germanic lufu, is intestinal and milky
like undug onions squeezed from mothers.
Love is not Latin, poised for markets smooth
and sellable. If we did love

in a soothe and soluble way,
we’d say amor—as in enamored,
or unarmored. Or maybe phil—as in
I philosophize you. Philander you. Phillet you, my lovely
philodendron. In another language I would let

my leaves grow leggy and long. Languish
on your windowsill without returning
any kind of sun. What word can tolerate
roots umbilically long?

In the language of philodendrons, there is
no word for Lupus. So I, philodendron,
cannot say this to you. Diagnoses
are intimately designed for a future,
and philodendrons speak only in present

tense, as I tuck what’s left of my tongue
into teeth. Lupus, like scissors.
Lupus, like a loose leaf. When you call
for no other reason than to hear

what the doctor said: I lyre, I lick, I limp
lily-green, and leave you

phil as in chlorophyll, is all.