Marjorie Maddox

Double the Consonant, Shorten the Vowel 

That’s what comes from majority rule: 
the T’s stretching their crossbeams further 
across better, G’s claiming they’re bigger, 
L‘s lazily lounging with their political pull, 
P‘s too dippy with twin happiness to notice 
their former association with pain and poverty. 

O O‘s and silent A‘s, 
diminutive i’s, E‘s eager to please and acquiesce, 
and, of course, the once ubiquitous U
whoop, roar, hoot, scream, screech 
above the clamor of consonants 
already claiming house control of hubbub
commotion, applause

There Is a Rat in the Middle of Separat

not just his teeth, as pointed as before-test pencils, 
but his entire seamy body gleams 
with lasciviousness and longing for the lost 
spelling bee, its airborne script  
intercepted by the evolved, phonically 
abused, and chomping pterodactyl, 
who took the tiny sting like a man 
sucking on sore taste buds, 
and flew off to a museum to sulk. 

The rat’s tail snaps out like nun-chucks, 
reels in the red meat of the rational, 
the tough but tenuous topic sentences tied together 
just-so with brown-paper and transitions, 
but no address,  
“Undeliverable” stamped across the letters 
before they’re tossed. 

In this garbage can of sound and lost vowels, 
there must be, the rat sneers, 
bones worth chewing, homonyms half-digested, 
picked over and passed on  
by Spelling Checkers. And he digs deeper 
into the pile of mismatched prefixes,  
misspelled bannanna peals; he digs deeper 
into the tunnels of proclaimed typos; he digs deeper 
sniffing, sniffing, sniffing, 
day-dreaming always of Limburger 
accurately spelled. 

I Take My Coffee with Two E’s 

two F‘s and no artificial sweetener; 
my sherbet, please (so low-fat), with an extra r
my filet mignon with its g and n 
tenderly underdone. 

Ah vichyssoise à la Ritz, 
bouillabaisse, asparagus vinaigrette, 
salmon dipped and smoked; 
Ah, Grand Marnier soufflés, 
peppermint-chocolate mousse, why wait 

for the weight of words 
to ingest each letter 
by letter? Such sweet 
seasoning to the palate,  
basted sound and roasted syllable. 
Ah, Messieurs et Madames, 
the delicacy, the delight, 
the culinary delectableness of language 
skillfully marinated, prepared, 
and presented by that master  

A Double Helping of S, Please 

Yes, I’ll take another s in my dessert,  
another slice of strudel, 
an extra sampling of strawberry shortcake, 
a smidgen more of spritz, twin pecan tassies, 
double cheesecake snack squares. 

No thank you, please, not a single desert, 
that dusty Sahara sandbox 
where I crave scores of sibilations 
to satisfy this persistent thirst  
for all that’s sweet and sugary. 

Earth Day: 2020 

Hell, yes, open the window  
and reel in some sanitized breeze,  
some O-Say-Can-You-See-the-Sky 
and Hey-Can-You-Feel-the Sea 
(with each properly scrubbed toe) 
                                 but please don’t. 
cough or sneeze your unhealthy 
memories of bliss or shimmy up 
too close to any trees six feet apart 
and frost-bitten at their blooms  
from last week’s blizzard. 
Or don’t patriotically salute or  
                                 mourn Ma Nature’s 
50th year celebration of today’s  
Call to Action brought to you 
in living color from the living room.  
No, nothing’s dead yet except 
excuses to not deep-clean  
such continued devastation. Until then, 
                                 let Her breathe. 

Then There’s That 

A hand, a slap, a fist. 
The morning dew, the question 
 “Who is the stranger with such fragile fingers  
straightening today the ironed collar of your shirt?” 

The bruise pooling beneath skin, 
the skin taut across belly, 
the faint heartbeat beneath 
the scuttle of punctuated No’s. 

And the exclamations of joy, 
the em-dash of hope, 
the comma of sigh typed expertly 
at 120 words a minute 
into the narrative of hand 
protecting the other.  
                                 There’s that. 

And the first glance and the last 
blow, and the morning and the evening 
of the broken bones, and the stitched-together 
hellos and the swollen goodbyes, and the repeat 
ritual bend, mend, pretend, upend, transcend, descend… 

And then there’s that. 


Professor of English at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry, the story collection What She Was Saying; 4 children’s/YA books, Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, and Presence (assistant editor). Begin with a Question and Heart Speaks Is Spoken For are forthcoming in 2021/22. Marjorie was first featured in The Short of it on September 4, 2020. She also had three pieces featured in The Sound of Brilliance.


Submissions are now closed but if you’d like to be featured on The Short of It in the future,
click here for the submissions guidelines.



The word invaluable, defined as something extremely useful or indispensable, means powerful and positive. I despise this word. The problem for me that many of the words I’ve learned over the years, which begin with ‘in,’ describe something opposite the definition of the word that follows said ‘in.’ So, my mind has to shift from it being something negative to it being positive. Why is the English language so damn wishy-washy about its rules?

Here is a list of just a few of the words we’ve all grown up to understand as the opposite just because the ‘in’ is in front of it:


Add to that, pet peeve #2, people using the word when I’m already conflicted about having to rethink it when I read it! How come they aren’t just as upset as I am?!? And why can’t anyone give me a reasonable explanation as to why the word should even exist?

Then recently, I’m reading a book called 180 more, a book filled with poetry curated by Billy Collins. I adore his work! But right there in the introduction, HE used the word. I was stunned! I had to stop reading for a bit and compose myself. And possibly rethink my relationship with him.

While I realize that words have meanings, and it is in the dictionary, I cannot wrap my mind around the inconsistency (< again LOOK!) of the use of ‘in’ at the front of words which clearly mean to indicate the opposite or worse action of the word.

Anybody else have this quandary?

#Billy Collins – I sure hope you see this. I would love your input. 🙂

Webster’s Rules

Thanks – David Fitzgerald 

How ironic to receive this meme from a friend today! I’m chuckling still. 🙂

What needs to be said is that words have a specific meaning. This is why we have dictionaries. They remind us how to use words in their correct context. Does and can the definition of a word change over time? Of course. But if we are using a current definition of something then this is what informs us about the content while reading or guiding us, does it not?

Otherwise, isn’t deviating from the definition of a word to satisfy one’s own interpretation simply just making up something entirely new but still wanting to call it the same thing? It’s illogical, IMO, if we already have an established norm for sharing information.

Thoughts welcomed!

Give Children Their Voice


Respect doesn’t come easily to youth’s life experience in progress. We put them in their place…

Shut up, youngin’.

What do they know, right?

Shaming leads to silence. It leads to rage. Don’t do that.

A well thought out opinion deserves an audience, even if only one is there to receive it.

Contributions of spoken information are the right of any individual, young or old.
Let’s hear it all.

Encouraging communication honors the conviction of the orator. Let them learn, respect their effort. Challenge the thought process, if it requires it, but let them speak.

Embrace their courage, honor their thoughts. Let them talk.

Their experience, their journeys will shape future discussions, better lives possibly.

All humans feel valuable to others and especially themselves when they are accepted.

Respect their language and their self-expression.

Let them become adults who are heard.