Pondycherry

HUMOR, FICTION, & POETRY

The way some people sing for themselves
on the drive home, I kept repeating
“pondycherry” out loud, one of those
trivial chunks that pops up,
tangled with the mind’s sargassum,
and wondering where I got it, arrived at
a satiny red-brown wood that came
naturally hollowed from the mill, something
a craftsman might use in his furniture,
an elderly wood-turner and caner of chairs
who worked out of a storefront, its floor
lovely to the nostrils and eyes
with sawdust and woodcurl.
He’d be a local repository who still used
“honey wicket” for flicker, “timberdoodle”
for woodcock. He’d look at
a yard-sale chair, its seat busted
through like a basketball hoop, and say.
“That wood’s pondycherry, used to be
a stand of it the far side of Higgins Pond.
A pleasure to work with, but the fruit
would pucker you permanent.”
Pondicherry, the dictionary gives me,
a former province of French India.
But why should I choose between denotation
and the mind at play, or reject another
hint, from the depths under a word,
that I’ve lived other places, other lives?
—BRENDAN GALVIN