You Forgot To Be Beautiful

An evening of jazz, how pleasant one thinks,
then you hear a noise like a kitchen sink
being tossed out a window into a dumpster
or bombs bursting in air over Fort Sumter.
There’s a hint of three tomcats all tossed in a bag,
then shaken, not stirred as a loathsome gag.
You smile and applaud, but as a critic quite dutiful,
you tell the quartet, “You forgot to be beautiful.”

aacm
AACM:  Gack!

 

The public unveiling of a grand civic sculpture:
when disrobed, it looks like an arthritic vulture.
There’s rusted metal enough for a two-car collision,
the sculptor would think my praise quite high derision.
His manifest intent is epater le bourgeois,
I can only conclude that the guy is a doucheois.
When I meet him, I admit, I got kinda cute-iful:
“Hey man, great stuff—but you forgot to be beautiful.”

picasso

The Greeks had it right, if you want my view,
the good, the beautiful, and also the true.
Anything else—why bother trying it?
You can call it art, but I ain’t buying it.

picasso1

The lady’s got two noses on one side of her face–
somehow, something looks . . . out of place.
If I could I would take my Artgum eraser
but the museum guard would pull out his Taser.
I’d be laid out twitching on the marble floor,
while the docents cried lustily “Give him some more!”
And so she retains a weird double snootiful.
My artistic advice—don’t forget to be beautiful.

 

The Corrupting Influence of Staten Island Picnics

Picnics on Staten Island Blamed for Ruin of Young Girls

                                           New York newspaper headline, 1884

 

If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t let her go
on a picnic with just any Tom, Dick or Joe
to Staten Island, ruin of young girls,
so precious, so dainty, beneath their spit curls.

picnic
Let’s get this party started!

 

On a picnic you’re likely to encounter ants
that can climb up your legs if you don’t wear long pants.
To scratch them requires an action indelicate
which you must do yourself, you can’t ask your fellow-cate.

picnic1
Oh yeah!

 

If you start to sweat, he may see your nipples
as your perspiration down you ripples.
If your face grows flush, he may think it passion
and take liberties if he thinks himself dashin’.

picnic2
Beneath those snarling exteriors lie snarling interiors!

 

With all of these threats to a young woman’s virtue
it’s best if she sticks to a quite early curfew
because things can get ugly, indeed quite hairy
if she succumbs to his wiles and should miss the last ferry.

Youth is Not Wasted on the Young

There once was a man of an uncertain age
Who felt his life slipping, that he’d turned a page,
So he dumped the Mrs. and gave her some dough,
And set off to find self, where’er it might gough.
He tried Grecian Formula to blacken his locks,
Wore slim-fitting sweaters, bought new argyle socks.
A little red sports car was of course required
And a personal trainer was quickily hired.

His friends and companions, they noticed the change
And more than one came soon to think he was strange.
His vocab was sprinkled with “awesome” and “skeevy,”
He watched Jersey Shore on his new high-def TV.
He’d buy rounds of drinks at a bar that had ferns
He studied the ways of the young, and he lerned.
He found you have friends if you freely spend money–
Folks hark to your talk, and think your jokes funny.

Once he was settled in his brand new skin
He looked round himself, and he took it all in.
He’d mastered the art of playing the dandy
And now it was time for some major arm candy.
He took up with a bleach-blonde aerobics instructor,
He briefily wooed her, then brieflier fucked her.
She found him too fast, “like a bleeping Niagara.”
She told him to get lots of full-strength Viagra.

One word to the wizened was more than enough–
He went to the drug store and purchased the stuff,
And when next the lovebirds climbed into the sack
He was like his old self at the beast with two backs.
He huffed and he puffed through the first time, then twice,
He recalled all he’d read of Hugh Hefner’s advice.
He would have been golden, except for one fact,
He lay back and suffered a mass heart attack.

Moral: If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie

There once was a man, whom to each woman fetching
Would extend an invite to come look at his etchings.
Once they were safely ensconced in his apartment
He’d make timid moves in the seduction department.
He’d look at them longingly, then sing off-key,
“There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie.”

femme fatale

The gals would get flustered at this song from the thirties,
It was just the thing when you wanted to get flirty.
Kisses that taste like wine, all that lyrical stuff,
That reduced to print looks like so much guff,
But when sung in the mode of a 30’s crooner
Made of this diffident chap a first-class spooner.

nelson1

All he had to do was trace over one word–
The name of each night’s particular bird.
But he couldn’t, he wouldn’t, he’d stumble every time
He had the soul of the poet, and was a slave to rhyme.
And so, upon the ears of a lovesome chickadee
He’d forget her name, and call her “Cherie.”

cherie

Then they’d all flee, thinking he was a cad,
He wasn’t, though he’d have liked to be, bad.
It just wasn’t in him, he found out by trying,
He was faithful to sheet music, and no good at lying.
And so on his couch, alone once a girl’d flee,
He’d hum to himself–danger, eyes, Cherie.

nelson eddy

And then, just when things began to seem lost,
He inveigled a young thing and her heart did de-frost.
She seated herself on his worn-out divan
He cleared his throat, and then he began–
“There’s danger,” he sang, “In Your Eyes, Cherie,”
To which she replied: “That song’s about me!”

Moral: When pitching woo, don’t shake off the catcher’s signs.

To The Woman Checking Her Pits in the Friday Sales Meeting

It’s hot, I know,
and there are places you’d rather be;
the beach for one, same with me,
and with you I would go.

But we are stuck here, my dear;
me in the front and you in the back row
while before us drones the regional manager,
about moving product.

I see you check your pits,
your nose tilted downwards
like a duck plucking at its
pin feathers. It’s the weather,
and we’re all sweating, same as you.

There are risks to sleeveless
dresses in the heat;
yes, they help you stay cool, but by ventilation,
and so your musky fragrance is a revelation.

You hope you don’t offend, but Lord, woman—
look at these men! The thought of your sweat
is the furthest thing from their minds: “Beer, tube, ballgame—

Ugh!” they would grunt if they could.
So let us go, in our minds’ eyes,
to a place that is cool;
a dark and shady grove is best,
and we’ll remove that summer dress.

The Night of the Red Sox Living Dead

One afternoon, while heading home
Upon a hot commuter train,
I fell asleep, and dreamed this poem,
As summer’s light began to wane.

I saw a scene of baseball’s past
When stadiums were built to last
With brick-and-ivy outfield walls
Bombarded hard by sluggers’ balls.

And every man, and every maid
Would swelter in the noon-day heat.
And by the time the game’d been played
They’d smell as bad as postmen’s feet.

My reverie became a wish
That bordered close on heresy:
That Fenway Park, the Red Sox home,
Become an air-conditioned dome.

And as I slept the train rolled on
Past Back Bay then to Newtonville,
My narcoleptic state absorbed
What otherwise was time to kill.

Through Wellesley Farms to Wellesley Hills
And Wellesley Square I slept.
Through Natick and West Natick too
The engineer appointments kept.

When hot and groggy I awoke
To the conductor’s awful yawp,
The scenery out my window showed
We’d rolled four stations past my stop.

I stumbled off the train to see
A wave of fans in front of me
With baseball caps upon their heads
That bore the letter “B” in red;

it was–

The Night of the Red Sox Living Dead.

Their heads had swelled (or was it mine,
That lay asleep for all that time?)
“Ortiz” and “Schilling” on their backs.
With wild surmise and looks quite wacked.

They staggered towards me, two by two,
I froze, then turned and tried to flee.
Well, what exactly would you do,
If I were you, and you were me?

They seemed intent on mayhem mad
Or maybe something even worse.
As I imagined just how bad,
A mother hit me with her purse.

“Get out the way, we’re comin’ through!”
She screamed from deep within her lungs.
She pushed a snot-nosed kid or two–
Why is youth wasted on the young?

I stumbled back on to the train
Not knowing how or even why.
Crushed flat beneath a press of flesh
I thought that I was going to die.

We rattled back towards the town
From whence I’d come when wide awake,
Squeezed tight so I could make no sound
Squashed flatter than sardine pancakes.

West Natick first, plain Natick next
By Wellesley Square I’d caught my breath.
“Excuse me,” I could finally say,
“I’m getting off, my stop is next.”

“This guy here thinks he’s getting off!”
A ghoulish fan saw fit to scoff,
And then a chilly chorus said,
“He didn’t say the magic word!”

I racked my brain both high and low,
Then left, then right and upside down.
What sound would cause the zombie hoard
To let me off at Wellesley town?

I couldn’t think, I had to beg,
“Please tell me,” I implored a girl.
“I’m really not too bad an egg,
If not the nicest in the world.”

She looked at me with deep brown eyes
That bore through me like fine drill bits
A loyal fan, quite undersized,
She’d brought along a catcher’s mitt.

Child of the Damned, in schoolgirl clothes,
A tartan kilt of blue and green;
She wore a pair of Mary Janes
Her brown locks tossed by breeze unseen.

“If you want to get off this train
In Wellesley Square, one stop away
You’ll have to say the magic word!
Or ride with us to Yawkey Way!”

I didn’t want to go that far, I’d rather
–if the truth be known–
Be sitting in my easy chair
And watch the stupid game at home.

She read my mind by ESP
The zombies then advanced on me.
“Just say the simple syllable
And we’ll ride on while you go free!”

My mouth was dry, no words would come
I guess you’d say I’d been struck dumb.
In fear I struck a fetal pose,
And on they came, as zombies come.

The little girl sank to the floor
Like Jolson, skidding on her knees,
And screamed “You silly nimmynot–
The word you need to say is ‘Please’!”

Available in Kindle format as part of the collection “Red Sox and Yankees: Why Can’t We Be Enemies?”

For Refrigerator Poets, Verse Builds Bodies and Minds

SOMERVILLE, Mass.  By day, Toby Shasniff is an installer for Fallmere Appliances, a retailer with a large share of the local market for those who find big-box stores in the suburbs hard to reach or intimidating.  “It’s a pretty menial job, but I take pride in it,” he says as he tightens a dishwasher’s rubber hose to a faucet with a wrench.  “Every now and then a housewife short of cash will tip me with wild, uninhibited sex for putting in a stackable washer-dryer combo, but that’s pretty rare.”


“Thanks for the wild sex–let me know if you have any problems with the lint trap.”

 

By night, however, Shasniff moves from the mundane to the sublime as a participant in the New England region’s growing number of refrigerator verse competitions, a sort of cross between a strong man contest and a poetry slam.  “I go to open mic poetry nights sometimes, and it’s just not the same,” Shasniff says with barely-concealed disgust.  “Those guys are out of shape from smoking and ‘crafting’ their delicate little sestinas.”

In refrigerator verse competitions poets must bring their own appliance to the stage, often after climbing steep stairs to cramped night clubs and maneuvering around tight corners.  “The essential tools of my art include a set of magnetic poetry tiles and a heavy duty appliance dolly,” says Bobbi-Jean Nason, one of the few female refrigerator poets, who grew up bucking hay in Missouri.  “I try to stick to traditional poetic forms, but one night I dropped a crate of sonnets on the stairs and I had to improvise with free verse.”


Dolly:  Essential tool of the poet’s craft

 

Refrigerator poets are locked in a struggle for the soul of contemporary poetry with so-called “flarf” poets, who compose with the aid of computer-generated web searches, and “conceptual” poets, for whom the concept behind a poem–such as reading the white pages of Shaker Heights, Ohio, while taking a bath in public–is more important than the quality of the verse or its content.


” . . . to ask if I used deodorant is a question that smells itself.”

 

A fourth group, the “performative” poets, seek to produce poems that have an immediate impact on society rather than merely causing “a little ripple in a stagnant pond of academics,” says Rod Huden, a former practitioner who is now confined to the Ernie Doerr Home for Wayward Boys in Keokuk, Iowa, after passing one of his poems to a bank teller:

read my work close
i don’t write trash
small bills only
hand over the cash

Shasniff is running late and tired tonight, having just finished a Sub-Zero refrigerator “install” at an MIT professor’s starkly-furnished condo in Cambridge, for which he had to park a block away because of the neighborhood’s density.

refrigerator
“You’re all set in your kitchen quite Quaker.
It’ll take a few minutes to start the ice-maker.”

“I’m going more for a freezer effect tonight rather than a mere refrigerator poem,” he says as he takes magnetic tiles in hand and prepares his thoughts extemporaneously.

Bird’s Eye peas–I must get on my knees
to reach thee, sequestered as you are beneath
Eskimo pies, to which I’ll treat myself after
eating my vegetables, starch and meath.

 

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

The Solipsistic Lady Novelist

 

. . . that singular anomaly,
the lady novelist—
I don’t think she’d be missed
— I’m sure she’d not be missed.

Koko, The Mikado

 

She thinks, and then she considers her thought;
she absorbs herself, really, more than she ought.
As soon as she’s oozed, she sucks it all up,
like a squid that spills ink, then scoops it in a cup.

oates

“I’m haunted,” she writes, “by so many things–
earth shoes, amulets, seventies mood rings.
I wonder why that is?” she asks, almost sings.
A conversation with her is a hive-full of bee stings.

She tells you of when she was first struck
by the beauty of crystals, a date she remembers.
You’re tempted to say, “Who gives a . . . damn?”
But she cuts you off: “It was just last December!”

sensitive

Of course she was sensitive when still a wee tot,
so precocious, other kids still haven’t caught up!
“I wondered quiet early, how things are so fraught!”
“With what?” you scream inwardly, but you stay shut up.

She wonders about men, about art, about life,
and why our world is so chock full of strife;
and then when she’s through with her ruminations
she re-chews it all with self-regarding mastication.

I’d like to help her, I really, really would,
but I don’t think my assistance would do her much good.
I can’t offer her fame, or power or pelf,
Just this advice–get over yourself.

Sharon From Tenafly

It was orientation week, at my highbrow college
where chalky pedagogues would stuff us with knowledge–
but first, a time to get to know each other;
we’d take a bus trip, all of us together!
and ask questions about majors, sisters and brothers
then walk the dunes in the early fall weather.

Sharon

I was seated behind a girl named Sharon
with coal black hair that she chose to wear in
a bohemian bun, held tight by tortoise shell clip.
She turned and took me in with a look
that was seductive and arch, knowing and hip,
and put down her Marx or Freudian book.

She introduced herself and then she queried
“Where are you from?” and I said “Missouri,”
except that I pronounced it in my native tongue
as people from the southern and the western parts will:
“Mizzuruh,” I said, and as if she were stung
she screamed, then laughed, and finally was still.

poor white

“That is so charming!” she loudly exclaimed,
she was off to the races, I couldn’t explain.
“Do you always wear red-checked lumberjack shirts?
and keep straw or toothpicks ‘tween your teeth?”
I hesitated to correct her, bit my tongue till it hurt,
but within myself I started to seethe.

I decided I’d try to string her along,
and see if she’d buy my dance and song.
“Are you first to go to college in your family?”
she asked, and I decided to take the bait.
“I’m the first to graduate,” I noted happily,
“from pre-school, kindergarten and also grade eight.”

outhouse

“Oh dear,” she exclaimed, “you’re so—so rural!”
she said with an emphasis that might have been plural.
“Your home—does it have indoor plumbing?
or must you repair to a bare, stinking outhouse?”
she said with a frisson, as if she were slumming.
and I was overcome and began to play head louse.

“What is this ‘indoors’ of which you speak?
Is it something we’ll see after orientation week?”
She recoiled in horror, aghast at my plight,
I was a Walker Evans photo she’d seen in a book,
Left behind by civilization’s march towards the light,
She rated me lower than a Seacaucus mook.

bowling

“Where are you from?” I finally rejoined,
I’d decided I’d rather stay out of her loins,
“I’m from Tenafly, a ‘burb of New York City.”
“Is that,” I said, “anywhere near Paramus?”
“Why do you ask?” she said with some pity.
“I used to watch ‘Make That Spare’ in pajamas.”

 

Moral: You’re only as sophisticated as somebody else thinks you are.

Kiss Me, You Fool!

She enters the room in a cloud of perfume,
Her bracelets jangling an irksome tune.
Her hair swirls round her rougéd face
A strand here and there is out of place.

She knows what she wants, what she wants is a man;
To achieve this end she’s conceived a plan.
Her plot is well-laid, her look is quite frantic;
She’s decided to play the hopeless romantic.

She takes on the air of Blance DuBois,
The Juicy Fruit™ working within her jaws.
Her eyes are vacant, her head thrown back
To better display her pencil-width neck.

She’s ready to steal a man from his wife,
His hearth and his home, his humdrum life.
Her dream is to be the great love of her era,
A slim incarnation of the late Theda Bara.

She spies an accountant, a full CPA,
She’s not at a loss for sweet things to say.
She opens her mouth as if to drool
And says breathlessly—“Kiss me, you fool.”

The guy looks her up, then down and sideways.
He’s not quite prepared for a human sachet.
He lowers his voice to be more discreet,
Then says to her softly “How’s your balance sheet?”

She’s shocked that he’d question her financial condition.
To hell with bean-counters, he can go to perdition!
She slaps him and lurches along the buffet—
She’ll never again vamp a CPA.

Her next target’s one with an air of assurance;
He sells both life and auto insurance.
She figures she’ll take him to romantic school;
With a sultry dark air she says “Kiss me, you fool.”

The fellow assesses the risk and the premium;
He sizes her up but won’t fall for her schemium.
“Your charms, I agree, are quite ineluctable—
But first I must ask—how high’s your deductible?”

Her face turns bright red, then she blushes entirely–
She’s not met a man so completely un-squirely!
She spins on her heel, her tears ‘bout to choke her—
All coquetry’s wasted on an insurance broker.

And then, ‘long the wall, she sees a new prospect;
A reticent man with an erudite aspect.
He seems rather nice, not a jock or a tool.
So she tries once again: “Kiss me, you fool!”

He gives her a look, and takes off his glasses
And blithely succumbs to her manic passes.
The guy was a fan of the silent screen
And would fall for that line almost sight unseen.

Moral: If you want to be a hit, throw your pitch to the right batter.

Blog at WordPress.com.
The Esquire Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,422 other followers