Issue Thirty-Three - Winter 2019

Wanton

By Christopher Nye

Wanton, verb, “to waste or squander,” thus
to want on and on beyond the musical measures
life provides, over the hump of happiness, and into
precincts where Conscience fades like a distant
radio signal and Temptation spreads
a pretty cloth over a soiled table.

Wanton, adjective, “extravagant”;
but it has sprouted like a mushroom
in a dank forest or a casino on an Indian reservation
into other meanings. In one direction we find
“immoral, unchaste, lewd,” or in a dictionary
from England, where they like to tone things down,
“unruly, undisciplined.” In another direction
the wanton path becomes “maliciously cruel.”
Dark spears with sharp points grow from twisted
intentions and powers arrogated from subhuman sources.

Wanton, noun, “a promiscuous person,
especially female,” implies someone who
should know better. Thus the term would not suit
a rabbit, unless used in the other sense of
“one who is frolicsome.” Poor rabbit,
how is she supposed to know if she’s being
complimented or insulted?
Even long ears do not let Hopper
hear the difference between these two meanings
and the last, now obsolete, “a spoiled child.”

I’d like to visit the Moken people,
who live in boats among the islands
of the Andaman Sea. They share everything
and make so few demands on nature
that they have no verb for want.

Copyright Nye 2019

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