Get Off My Lawn

 

I’ve reached the age at which I find
I value most my peace of mind
And for my mind to be at peace
I sometimes have to be unkind.

When I lie down to take a nap
I’m not inclined to hear some crap
about the coming fall of Greece
or some place hard to find on maps.

Greenpeace

And yet as soon as I lie down
the bleeding hearts invade my town
Sierra Club or maybe Greenpeace
They have big smiles that make me frown.

They’ve come for me to save the whales
I just nodded off—it never fails.
A rap-tap-tapping that will not cease
It hammers my head like three-penny nails!

Jehovah

There’s peripatetic religionists,
Jehovah’s Witnesses—or is it Adventists?—
Who warn me of the flames of hell
After they ring my front doorbell.

There’s politicians of every stripe
Peddling door-to-door their tripe.
I signed our house up for no-solicitation
But the First Amendment’s the pride of our nation.

Politician

Before they cross my property line,
I’d tell them not to waste their time.
“Leave your literature, I’ll take no offense,
Be careful—that’s an electric fence!”

Yet still they came, like nuns, in pairs,
I’ve thought of adding ice to the stairs,
But then a suit they would commence
Mulcting the estate I’d leave for my heirs.

I’d hear them all out, I’d stifle a yawn,
by then all hope of sleep was gone
And so I learned to play offense
By yelling at them “Get off my lawn!”

For I have reached the age at last
When time is short, for time has passed
I’ll chase them all straight over my fence
They’d better run, and they’d better be fast.

 

Ode to Tautology

The Morning Star looks like the Evening Star,
a B# sounds like a C.
My unmarried brother’s a bachelor–
They’re pretty much the same to me.

I travelled to visit Grant’s Tomb
to see who was buried there
I ate a hoagie, a sub and a grinder–
a lot of food, but I didn’t care.

hoagie

I went on a trip to Upper Volta,
I forgot to bring my lasso.
Next time I go on vacation
I want to see Burkina Faso.

I live in close proximity
to the place that I call home.
I go to the beach for the shore.
These are truths, as far as I know ‘em.

burkina faso

Whenever I order chai tea
they never bring me two cups.
It gives me pause, so I hesitate,
But then I ask “Hey—what’s up?”

Trapping for Poetesses

 

In these days . . . so many ingenious traps for catching and hamstringing female poets have been invented that it is a rare editor who ever really sees one.

H.L. Mencken, Memoirs of an Editor

I set a snare before the door
of a shoppe that brewed its coffee bitter.
An Adrienne Rich-type took the bait,
and scurried through where the deadfall hit her.

She was stunned, to say the least,
her poetic gifts, for the time, suspended;
her close-cropped hair couldn’t go awry
but her derriere was, of course, upended.

“Why’d you do that?” she finally asked
when sense and sensibility returned.
“Has a bounty been offered to those who trap
a female poet, by passion burned?”

“Sorry,” I said, “just doing my job,
don’t think of me as your natural predator.
I was asked to capture all feral bardettes
by an overworked, underpaid poetry editor.”

“I assume,” she said, “that you speak of a he,
a man with a plan to bar feminine verse.”
“Uh, yeh,” I replied, “it’s an editing guy
who decreed that distaff stuff’s the worst.”

“What about Dickinson, what about Moore?
What about Sappho, to give you one more?
What about Edna St. Freaking Millay?
I could name you so many you’d probably get bored.”

“Sure, they’re fine, each in her way,”
I danced in response, I practically pavaned her.
“The problem is not just the poems in themselves,
They’re written on paper that’s scented with lavender.”

 

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “The Girl With the Cullender on Her Head (and Other Wayward Women).”

Maisie Dear

Maisie dear, I can’t forget her–
I only wish her poems were better.
If they partook of lyricism
there’d be no reason for our schism,
but it’s too bad, that won’t be happening
because her lines are all quite sappening.

Me, by contrast, I write junk
to lift a poetessa’s funk;
the kind who loves her stormy weather
and sips tea in the altogether
because she’s too depressed to rise
and pulls the covers to her eyes.

But Maisie, she likes unicorns–
she sees the rose but not the thorns.
She dreams of fairies, elves and sprites
when she retires for the night.

So when I write a poem in jest
she holds it closely to her chest
and there against her blouse’s yoke
she doesn’t get my feeble joke.

We could, if she had half a mind,
become as one, enamored, kind.
We’d stay indoors as rainstorms raged
and write our poems page by page
and when the sun perchance did shine
we’d go outside where she’d read mine
and then she’d say “Now it’s your turn,
here’s one about a Grecian urn
that fell and broke, from where it sat
quite high above a welcome mat.”

No Maisie, we must sadly part
for I possess an antic heart
while yours is pure, and sweet and simple–
as naughty as a cupid’s dimple.

I’ll miss your lashes and brown eyes
until the very day I’m dead;
I do not mean to criticize
but jokes of mine fly o’er your head.

The Better I Knew Her, the Less I Liked Her

I thought that she’d be perfect—
I thought that she’d be fine.
I thought we’d be in love forever—
I thought that she’d be mine.

But as I looked into her eyes
She told me—she liked to pull wings off flies.
The better I knew her—
The less I liked her.

I continued to date her,
for awhile I just played dumb.
She told me how she once gave a raccoon
A stick of chewing gum.

She sat and watched as he washed it
When his paws stuck she had a laughing fit.
The better I knew her—
The less I liked her.

When she was a little kid,
she painted her best friend green.
She was sent to a Home for Wayward Girls
as soon as she hit thirteen.

I thought that I would love her
for her spunk and for her sass.
But I found out she wasn’t so nice
Sugar ‘n spice? My dyin’ ass!

She cut off all the hair
Above a playmate’s right ear.
Then as the little girl sat there
She held up a plastic hand mirror.

She said “Which side do you like better?”
That’s why I’ve decided to forget her—
The better I knew her—
The less I liked her.

Bad Poetry

 

Bad poetry is a gift from above
That angels squirt down when they run out of love.
It falls like rain on our upturned cheeks
Causing damage that heals in a couple of weeks.
Filled with bad rhymes and even worse punning
Not a product of wit, but rather low cunning.

Cupid

I wrote some last year when my gecko died
And the time I sent back pinto beans—refried.
You can write by the inch, or even the yard—
You can write it real thin, or as thick as hog lard.

gecko

The internet’s great if you like bad verse,
If it’s lousy on paper, on line it gets worse.
A bad poem on parchment stays home from the dance
Until it gets published—as to that, fat chance.
Love poems cranked out by bards on computers
Hit the net ‘fore their rivals can say “Nice hooters!”

 

Bad poems are found in every scene
From the streets of Dubai to New England’s town greens.
How will you know a bad poem when it is seen?
It will look very much like the one on your screen.

My Poetic Nemesis

April is the cruelest month, wrote T.S. Eliot, and as a poet he knew whereof he spake. (Archaic past tense provided at no extra cost.) It is in April, after all, that the rejection letters and no-you-didn’t-win-the-Alice-Wambsley-Memorial-Poetry-Competition notices from the autumn submission cycle arrive in the mailbox.


Eliot: “Darn it—I lost again.”

But I’d been through all that before, so last fall I put on a Bush-Obama-Petraeus Verse Surge, sending out over 400 poems. I would become a published poet before turning–well, I won’t tell you what I’ll be turning–or expire tragically trying.

The fruits of my labor arrived yesterday. “We are pleased to inform you that your poem Thoughts on Waking After Spending the Night at a Kosher Vegetarian Commune has been accepted by plangent voices. Due to our extensive backlog, it is anticipated that publication will not occur until the fall 2016 issue.”


A (much) younger Hazel Flange

This, I thought, called for a celebration. I got in the car and headed over to the Coach & Four, the faux-colonial watering hole where the elite of our little exurban town—insurance salesmen, CPAs, the local zoning attorney—meet to eat and greet. And to confront my poetic nemesis, Hazel Flange.

Hazel has been lording it over me for years. She’s got all the good accounts in town: McBride’s Super Market, where she composes rhymed couplets for the flyers and paper shopping bags (“Looking for something to eat on Easter—Our ham and lamb will make a feaster!); Olney’s GMC-Chevrolet (“If you’re going to a gala, best that you should buy Impala!”); Muckerman’s Funeral Home (“We’ll bury your kin with quiet dignity—we promise our bill won’t be very bignity.”)

Then there are the special commissions—birthday, anniversary and pet poems. Have to hand it to the old girl, she was the one who came up with business model. Go to another old biddie’s house for bridge club, compliment the household dog, cat or goldfish, write a poem about it for the local paper. Then, when the owner is basking in the reflected glory of compliments from all her friends, offer to make her a laminated copy, suitable for framing—for ten bucks. “I just love your little Poodie, he is such a darling cutie!” Gag me, as the Valley Girls used to say, with a spoon.

But now the shoe is on the other foot. With Kosher Vegetarian Commune I’m not only published, I’ve introduced a genre of my own creation to the world of verse; poems whose titles are at least 75% as long as the poems themselves! Count them off:

This is kosher, this is trayfe,
One unclean, the other sayfe.
All day long we work and slayfe
Keeping kosher from the trayfe.

Pretty neat, huh! So it is with a new confidence that I stroll into the bar at the Coach & Four. It’s not Les Deux Maggots, or The White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death—but it will do. Except for the bathroom stalls—you know the one that begins “Here I sit all broken-hearted” don’t you?—the only poetry in the house is composed by Hazel, recited to a table crammed with her fawning sycophants.

I wave my hand as I stroll up to the bar and make the announcement I’ve been dying to proclaim for lo these so many years. “Marty,” I say to the bartender, “potato chips and snack foods for everybody—and see what the boys in the back room will have!”

With that a scramble the likes of which have not been seen since the Oklahoma land rush begins; there are only so many bags of Cape Cod Parmesan & Roasted Garlic Chips on the Snack-Rack, and it’s every man for himself.


Eyes on the prize.

I order my usual—a Smutty Nose Elderberry Lite I.P.A.—and lean back to take in the room, holding the tall-boy bottle Jeff Bridges-style, oh-so-casually around the very tip of the neck. I cast a glance in Hazel’s direction—she gives me the steely-eyed gaze that has caused so many budding young aethetes to realize there’s room for only one poetess in our town, and she’s not going anywhere.

I stand up and begin to work the room—suddenly I’m every man’s hero now that the out-of-work “consultants” and “advisors” in town are chowing down on Andy Capp Pub Fries on my nickel. After many slaps on the back and congratulations, I mosey over to Hazel’s table and, with an affected look of surprise, greet her.

“Why, Hazel,” I say, beaming, “fancy meeting you here! How’ve you been?” I don’t try to party-kiss her—in her dotage she has taken to applying rouge to her cheekbones. She read in Marie Claire that Celine Dion does something similar to make her nose look smaller.

“Hello,” she replies in a measured tone and just the hint of a combination smile-sneer—a “snile,” a “smeer”?—on her lips. “I see you have something to celebrate—finally.”

That hurts. Hazel had her first poem published when she was in fourth grade. I spotted it for the rip-off that it was—“Who can see the wind, neither you nor me, but when the wind is blowing, it tickles both my knees”—but apparently the editors of My Little Messenger weren’t as well read as me.

“Yes, yes, that I do,” I reply, trying hard to retain my composure. “Of course, it’s nothing to compare with the success you’ve had. Writing rhymed couplets for discount tire and battery stores.”


“Whence from your car you do dismount, check our snow tires at deep discounts.”

There is a collective intake of breath by the circle of admirers at Hazel’s table, but she’s as cool as a poker player sitting on pocket aces. “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money,” she says, going all Dr. Johnson on me.

The flow of air is reversed—the little group explodes with laughter—but I ignore the obloquy they think they are raining down on me. I’m after the Big Tuna Salad on White Toast Sandwich her own bad self.

“How’s about a little mano-a-womano verse battle—right here, right now, you and me?”

“Une petite slamme de poesie?” she replies, using up all the French she knows outside a Chef Boyardee can.

“That’s right. Winner take all. Must be original, spontaneous work, rhymed and metered.”

“My apartment has a separate meter,” one of her followers says, displaying the level of ignorance that is required in order to appreciate Hazel’s verse.

“Stifle it, Maeve,” Hazel snaps at the woman, and then says to me—”You’re on.”

“Peachy,” I say with a smarmy smile. “Ladies first—and no crib notes.”

The room is so quiet you can hear a chip drop, and from the bar I detect that Bob Smuldowney, head of the Public Works department, has let one fall to the floor.

“If I’m not mistaken, that was a Cool Ranch Dorito?” I say with a note of expectation in my voice as I wait upon the answer, showing off my ear.

“That’s amazing,” Smuldowney says.

That’s what it takes to be a first-class poet,” I say smugly. “Hazel—your serve.”

The dowager versifier clears her throat. She cocks her head a little to one side, like a parakeet—my guess is what she comes up with will be as derivative as “Polly want a cracker?”

She steadies herself by putting her fingers on the table, closes her eyes, tosses an errant spit curl aside and begins.

How lovely to be a poet
How wonderfully rewarding
It is like a free vacation trip
On a cruise ship you are boarding.

But each night when I’m finally done
I brush my teeth and floss.
A poetessa’s job is this:
To pick wheat from the dross.

I’m tempted to yell “mixed metaphor,” but it’s the playoffs, and I know I’m not going to get the call. No ref wants to blow a freestyle poetry battle in front of a big crowd and I have to say, even though it’s against my interests, that I agree—let ‘em play.


Woman with distaff: Whence it came, hence the name.

Hazel’s toadies are applauding politely but this is a bar, the audience is disproportionately male, and most of the guys are sitting on their hands, waiting to hear something from the non-distaff side.

“Great stuff, Hazel,” I say magnanimously. “I’ll give you the email address for The New Yorker when we’re done.” This is known as “trash-talking,” and as a Celtics fan during the Larry Bird Era, I learned from the master.


“Shhh—Larry’s going to recite now!”

The guys at the bar are looking at me with a mixture of hope and trepidation. They’re the ones who’ve been scratching doggerel on the walls of the stalls in the men’s rooms, inking haiku above the urinals, suffering under the yoke of genteel feminine poetry for so many years as Hazel asks them to turn down the games on the four giant-screen TVs so her umpty-dumpty-dumpty/umpty-dumpty-dump lines can be heard. If I can take her down, it will be a Spartacus-like moment; the joint will once again be free for belching and bad language worthy of Dizzy Dean, who drew the scorn of St. Louis English teachers for saying “He slud in there” on the Baseball Game-of-the-Week.


Dizzy Dean: He really said it.

“Hazel,” I begin with an off-hand, informal air that catches her off guard,

this is stupid stuff;
your pansies and violets—
your fairies at dawn or later in
the gloaming.

what the hell is a gloaming anyway?
and why would you bother to use it when poeming?
I do not like it, and no man could;
find another word please, if you would.

but in the meantime, hear me out;
the matter, we say, is free from doubt.
a bar’s not the place for poems like lace doilies,
and also I noticed your nose is quite oily.


Kudos!

I hesitate to use the word “claque,” but the guys are behind me all the way on this one, and the place erupts with a noise not heard since Jason Varitek stuffed his catcher’s mitt in Alex Rodriguez’s mug. They don’t call it “home court advantage” for nothing.

The ladies’ table is a bit taken aback by the rough tactics and the thunderous acclaim, but Hazel recovers like the pro that—I have to admit—she is.

“Nicely done,” she says, although I can tell that it pains her to put a smile on her over-glossed lips.

“Thanks—you’re still my favorite poet named Hazel,” I say. Good sportsmanship is contagious, I guess. “Have a drink on me, okay?”

Hazel considers this for a moment, then says “Yes—I think I will,” and advances to the bar where Marty says “What’ll ya have?”

“I think,” she says as she eyes the racks of expensive liquor behind him, “a Brandy Alexander—with Courvoisier VSOP Cognac.”

“Hey,” I say quickly before Marty can pour. “I meant anything under five bucks.”

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “poetry is kind of important.”

The Rats of Beacon Hill

One afternoon while trying to nap
I was awakened by a troupe of Krishnas, Hari.
I raised upwards my window sash
and swore that I would make them sorry.

Beacon Hill

I was just about to let them have it
When I a wondrous site did see;
A Beacon Hill rat waddling towards them–
There was no need for further involvement by me.

The Beacon Hill rats are sleek and fine,
they eat quite well, their coats do shine.
They’re the envy of rats in other ‘hoods
‘Cause nowhere else is the food so good.

Another time, quite late one night,
I heard two yuppies drunkenly laughing.
I went to steps of my Beacon Street pad
to give them a stern if good-natured chaffing.

Rat

But when I reached the top of my stoop
I saw the cause of their merriment;
A Beacon Hill rat scurrying downhill
His little paws clattering on the brick pavement.

The Beacon Hill rats have the run of the place,
they were here first, so they’re in your face.
They don’t give a hoot ‘bout your snooty forbears
and for hidebound conventions, they don’t really care.

There once was a restaurant known as Rebecca’s
for Beacon Hill yuppies, a new world Mecca.
With précieux entrees of nouvelle cuisine–
If you didn’t go there, you missed out on the scene.

One night as I dined there, a date to impress,
A scream from the kitchen cried out for redress.
A rat was skulking along the exposed brick wall,
His physique blown up like a basketball.

Beacon 2

He’d apparently ingested a dishwasher soap pill,
And the resulting suds his stomach did fill.
A potwasher took a broom by the handle–
I started to wonder, was the game worth the candle?

The plongeur took his stance, and swung like a batsman–
I thought it much neater to just get some cats, man.
‘Cause when he made contact the inflated rat splattered
While well-heeled patricians did hurriedly scatter.

The Beacon Hill rats will be there long after
You’ve left for the suburbs, and the peal of kids’ laughter.
They’re remarkably durable, they live there rent-free,
And they don’t give a rat’s ass about you or me.

 

To the Next Fellow to Woo a Certain Bluestocking

She will mourn for each mosquito
Slap’d upon a sunburnt arm.

She’d prefer you not eat Fritos—
They can do you grievous harm.

She will think you laugh too loudly
When you pass through public places.

She’ll reflect—though none too proudly—
When you make your funny faces.

(She beguiled me eating jam
spread on water-heavy snow.)

You’re a task for her improvement—
I just thought I’d let you know.

 

Available in print and Kindle editions on amazon.com as part of the collection “The Girl With the Cullender on Her Head (and Other Wayward Women).”

On Finding a Honey Bee in the Snow

Today as I snow-shoed my way around the farm,
I stopped in my tracks, and extended my arm
Downwards at something glimpsed in the snow.
It was—of all things—a honey bee, its wings blown
By the wind. I laughed involuntarily, then thought
Of the man whose house was up the hill. We’d bought
Honey from him before–this must be one of his bees
Who’d escaped somehow, and flown off to freeze.

What could make a bee leave a cozy hive for the cold?
I asked myself. Something he’d said to the queen, too bold?
Was he a worker bee laid-off in the off-season?
It didn’t make sense—it defied reason.
I picked it up and looked at it for a while–it didn’t sting me–
Then wrote this poem, little bee, by which I sing thee.

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