Edges / Riddles


     These riddles are written using the OuLiPo technique
     of 'Edges'(1) - a form of riddle conjuring presence
     through absence and whose subjects are revealed by
     word association alone. Each riddle is composed
     around a subject that is entirely represented by other
     words commonly associated with it. Neither the
     subject word, nor any other extraneous words appear
     in the body of the poem. Each riddle was composed
     using word associations taken from The Concise
     Oxford Dictionary of Current English
and has a
     subject taken from nature.



1. Stone

Dead people shouldn't throw age in the ground;
dead people should leave no tomb unturned.

Dead people shouldn't throw away chat;
          dead people should cast cold, sober gall.

Dead people shouldn't step in to weigh a slab of fish;
          dead people should work the precious crops.

Dead people shouldn't wash the crows;
          dead people should fly.

Dead people should cut the fruit.
          Dead people should hatch in the sand.

Dead people in glasshouses.
          Dead people.



2. Land

The mark of the agent of masses;
the lay of the locked expanse.

How the work lies in the form of the living;
how one slides on one's feet.

The Girl of Milk and Honey
ends up in trouble.

And the Lady of Hope and Glory.
And the Lord of Nod.

Mine fills. And my father's.
End.



3.  Ice

A thin man packed up the house: bag, bucket, cap.
      The man fell through the broken blue.
      The man picked a field; landed on a plant.
      The man liked drinks.
      The thin man skated over the cold like an axe over a box.
      The man bounded over age like cream on a cake.
      The man stationed a boat on the floe.
The thin blue man.



4. Sea

Salt water on the north shore of the worthy,
a choppy change of faces by the Dead;

a skating lane of troubles under anchor,
a level breeze to put a man to bed.



5. Bird

A little feather fancier told me
the feathers in the hand have flown

the sanctuary of the table;
the Paradise eye-view.

And the bees in the bush tell me
it is worth sticking together.



6.  Flea

A bag in your market,
a bug in your collar.
             A bane.

A circus in your ear pit,
a beetle in your water.
              A bite.



7. Fox

You sly old terrier hounding tails;
you lazy brown trotting dog!

Jump quickly over the hole,
you cunning old lady's hunting gloves!



8. Wood

To never see the warbler for the trees,
or ever see the pigeon for the grouse.

To never see the hyacinth for the anemone,
or ever see the pecker for the mouse.

To never see the blocks poured from the spirit,
or ever see the engravings of the louse.

 

9. Root

'And there shall be a stock of Jesse...
           and it shall strike at the nail of the matter
           and it shall take out the edible hairs
           and it shall cause beer to be the square of all evil
           and it shall put down plants to the spot
           and it shall pull deep things up by the teeth to get to the cube
and it shall branch a chord in you and around you...'



10. Seed

Abraham ran to the bank.
Abraham raised up the money for a plot.

Abraham raised a bed of ideas.
Abraham kept sowing crystals.

Abraham raised a cake.
Abraham kept a coat.

Abraham kept time.
Of doubt, Abraham spilled his pod full of pearls.



11. Fire

Alarm Raiser,
Spirit Warden;
Light Screen,
Forest Blighter.

Water Eater,
Ship of Storms;
Smoke Balloon,
Wood Lighter.

Stone Cracker,
Gas Opal;
Extinguisher,
Door Fighter.

Gun Salute,
Imagination's Engine.
Tongue of Power;
of Brimstone.



12. Storm

The meeting in a teacup,
the eye of gathering clouds.

The troops in the wind of the windows,
the lantern-bird party bound.

The abuse in weather signals.
Taking the world by the door.

Sailing away like the petrel.
Brewing. Brewing. Brewing.



13. Wind

The answer my friend is
to recover your instrument;

to know which way the sock and sleeve cheat,
burning in the eye of the mill of change;

to know the baby sails close to the rain,
taking the rose out of your sails;

to know the chill factor between wood and water,
surfing the force-swept breakers;

to know the gauge of the tunnel,
running like the lass and the weather;

to know the screen and the shield
put the flower up the machine;

to know the four north currents blow
before the bag shears and falls.

The answer my friend is
to know to hover.

         Andy Brown 2007



1. after Michele Mtail: Poemes du vide (Edges: Poems of Emptiness), 1986, cited in Brotchie, Alastair and Mathews, Harry. OuLiPo Compendium. London: Atlas Press. 1998.