T-O-R-T-U-R-E is a Seven-letter Word by Bruce Rice

Poem title: T-O-R-T-U-R-E is a Seven-letter Word
Poet: Bruce Rice
Poem: (for April 13, National Scrabble Day)

Bell-rung, concussed
warriors of the grid-iron clutching
their groins as they limp off the field
into the wrong locker room; hockey players
with noses jauntily zig-zagging
to the left, white and flattened like that frozen
haddock sleeping at the bottom of your freezer
with last year’s zucchini; and bull riders
with parts missing that Grey’s Anatomy
hasn’t heard of, and more stitches
than a zipper factory—should be grateful
for something a couple of Advils
can fix.

They wouldn’t last a week
at our house. And I ‘m not talking
about the slithery guest
dozing in the Snakes and Ladders box, nor
the chess board, bishops
sharpened into shivs for that dark night of the soul
and four hours of catatonia Flaubert called
“too serious as a game and too pointless as a science.”

These diversions pale beside the game
that shall not be mentioned.

		M3 E1 N1 T1 I1 O1 N1

						now there’s
a seven-letter word for fifty-nine points
if I can find a place to put it down, but I only
have half the letters so maybe
or MUTTONED if I can find
an open D, or maybe
MUTTONY—sure it’s a word.
MUTTONY on the Bounty.

Let’s review some rules.


Time is relative
to the position of the observer.
Just ask Einstein. Therefore,
there can be no time limit
that a single observer can observe.
Especially my father.


Words must be real with some gravitas. They must be
in Webster’s 1936 edition or the twenty-part
Oxford English Dictionary, which may be consulted
any time a player needs a word
starting with U and ending with X, and of course
the Dictionary of Scottish Derivations. 


Official Scrabble Players Dictionary Used by Sackards
and Americans Wallowing in the Dregs
of the English Language is

		V4 E1 R1 B3 O1 T1 E1 N1

another supposedly valid word. 


The scorekeeper—let’s call her Mom—
drinks Glenfiddich. The game doesn’t start
until the remaining players find the pencil stub
lost in the weave of an orange carpet that in 1974
narrowly missed becoming the floor, wall
and ceiling of a Shaggin’ Wagon.


The winner is the scorekeeper.
The person who puts things away
is a 

		L1 O1 S1 E1 R1

though words like
W4E1A1K5 and
do better score-wise.


TYLENOL  3 anyone?

TYLENOL: a proper noun 
that’s not allowed, although for sixty-five points

		S1 E1 P3 P3 U1 K5 U1 

End of poem. 
Credits and bio: Copyright © Bruce Rice
Bruce Rice is a previous Saskatchewan Poet Laureate (2019-2021). His most recent collection is The Vivian Poems (Radiant Press), on the life and work of street photographer, Vivian Maier. He has been shortlisted for Saskatchewan Book of the Year, and received poem of year awards from both Grain Magazine and The Malahat Review (P.K. Page Award). Bruce writes about individual lives, community and how we are transformed by landscape even as we leave our footprints on it. While he takes himself seriously, the fifty trout he keeps in his brother’s dugout say he’s not fooling anyone. Bruce lives in Regina on Treaty 4 territory and the homeland of the Métis.