Lucia Cherciu

How Many Thousands of Words?


Hanker, desire, covet, crave, long for, yearn for:

in fall, when they took us out of class for two months at a time

to pick grapes, I filled one hundred buckets a day

and learned English words I copied in a notebook

then transferred on lists to carry around.


Groove, habit, routine, rut: each word released

the dopamine gates of the brain, each word pungent

like the dozen kinds of grapes we picked,

the distance between the aura of each meaning

like the grapes we tasted: Muscat Otonel, Căpşunică.


Grind, rasp, grate, oppress: the list of synonyms,

each word linked to the other the way a couple of us

stranded away from the group and got lost,

always finding our way back in the burned colors

of the vineyards against the sky.


Grovel, fawn, creep, cringe, wallow, humble oneself:

in ninth grade, I spent a year reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

When I found a new word

I wrote it in my notebook and added minuscule dots

next to the word in the dictionary

every time I looked it up again.


Grudge: stint, dole, begrudge, withhold: every word

came with its own aroma. A man balanced on top of a truck

inside a large wood basin full of grapes, boots up to his thighs

as he moved in the grapes, splashed, bent to pick up

the bucket I hoisted up to him, and he laughed.

Lucia Cherciu was born in Romania and came to the United States in 1995. She is a Professor of English at SUNY / Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, NY, and she writes in both English and Romanian. Her newest book of poetry, Edible Flowers (
Main Street Rag, 2015), is available at bookstore/product/ edible-flowers. Her other books of poetry are Lepădarea de Limbă (The Abandonment of Language) (Editura Vinea, 2009) and Altoiul Râsului (Grafted Laughter) (Editura Brumar, 2010). Her poetry has appeared in Antioch Review, Connecticut Review, Cortland Review, Gulf Stream Magazine, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry East, Astra, Contrapunct, Hyperion, Oglinda Literară, Pro Saeculum, Salonul Literar, Timpul, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her web page is



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A CLOSER LOOK: Barbara Crooker

Bruce Bennett

Lucia Cherciu

Philip Dacey

Jane Ellen Glasser

Erica Goss

Elise Hempel

Alec Hershman

Rich Ives

Michael Jones

Kathryn Kirkpatrick

Sandra Kohler

Charlotte Mandel

G.H. Mosson

Simon Perchik

Oliver Rice

David Salner

Robert Joe Stout

Anne Harding Woodworth on Rebecca Foust

Richard Lee Zuras

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