Roy Herndon Smith

… you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition.
—Horace Walpole

Pick a word, any word—serendipity
say, an admittedly scampish, campy tramp—
a loosey-goosey waif. Her father conceived
her, commendably assisted in her birth,
named her, and then abandoned her; her mother,
magic, was, he said, a “fairy-tale” rumor—

no, really nothing, just a “silly” rumor;
he also said, to know Serendipity,
you had to meet her, but she, like her mother,
turned out to be nothing but a decked-out tramp
—everyone saying they’d had her at her birth,
giving her nicknames with no class, conceiving

her anew in romantic trysts, conceiving
her again until she was just a rumor,
like her mother, then less, nothing, lost, her birth
forgotten, with her name, Serendipity.
Found after a century, like an old tramp’s
will, or a sleeping beauty, in a mother

of jumbled papers, her natural mother
démodé, her new scholar-fathers conceived
her afresh as anything except a tramp—
not even a woman; they ignored rumors
of sensuous angels, “serendipity,”
the serenely sexy sense of it, gave birth

to; these fathers would make abstractions of birth,
accidents into discoveries, mother
into pure reason, and serendipity
into controlled “scientific” conceiving,
a precision tool for debunking rumor—
“Just the facts, ma’am, stop being a lying tramp—

nothing but the truth.” But lust for sexy tramps
trumps macho moralism. The bloody birth
of babes, ideas, the not-looked-for rumor
of angels, in drag, accidental mother
of sagacity, orgasmic conceiving—
the inchoate fact of serendipity—

abides—the rude, magical, trampy mother,
the birth of every word and each conception—
the campy rumor of serendipity.