Lines in Contemplation of a Tragic Accident

If you were hit, dear, by a truck,
And I were left without you–
I wonder then who I would, er,
Sorry–let me start over.
I wonder up with whom I’d end
Among our unwed female friends.

There is the woman nicknamed “Midge”
Who meets with friends for contract bridge.
She’s quite well-dressed and “pulled together,”
If ill says she feels “Under the weather.”
There’s Tupperware inside her fridge–
I do not think it would be Midge.

There’s Tricia with her mountain bike
Who likes to go on longish hikes.
Tri-athlete and marathoner
With super-wicking clothes upon her.
She wears me out just thinking of her–
Trish wouldn’t have me as her lover.

There’s Julie-she’s the cineaste–
Au courant
woman with a past.
Prefers her novels cutting-edge
And once was talked down from a ledge.
I’ll say this now and mean it truly–
I do not think it would be Julie.

 

As I my malbec do imbibe
My prospects thus seem circumscribed.
Perhaps I’d end up all alone
With empty mailbox, silent phone.

I like our life in quiet burb–
Be careful stepping off the curb.

First published in Light. Available in print and Kindle format as part of the collection “The Girl With the Cullender on Her Head.”

At the Viking Poetry Slam

                A mastery of poetry was a must for any young Viking.  A few Viking poems dwelt on love, but the heroes often undermined their happiness by chasing adventures that separated them from their beloveds. 

                                     The Wall Street Journal


“Who’s got the beer cooler?”

It’s 1230, and I don’t mean by the hands of the sundial.  I mean it’s 1230 A.D., and me and my buddies, Gunnlaug Snaketongue and Hallfred the Troublesome Poet, are having our regular Tuesday night poetry session.  We meet at Ericson’s, where they have 20 ounce King Olaf’s for only a clam, and pitchers for five clams.  Let me tell you, we usually set back the progress of Western civilization a couple of decades before the night is through.


Ericson’s:  Get there early for Friday Night Oxen Races.

We roll the bar dice to see who goes first, which is actually not the most desirable spot.  It’s better if your listeners have consumed a little mead before you start to bare the workings of your innermost soul.  Unfortunately, I roll snake-eyes.

“You go first Kormak Ogmundarson!” Hallfred says with glee.  I can tell he’s going to pounce on my handiwork like a blood eagle grabbing a baby chick.

“Okay, here goes nothing,” I say.  I take one last drink to wet my throat, then I launch the Viking ship of my verse onto unknown seas.

That night I dreamt of a maiden fair
whose dress I removed with a flourish.
What I saw underneath was a navel and hair
but a body that looked overnourished.

I looked up from my rudimentary parchment note pad to judge the effect of my quatrain on Gunnlaug and Hallfred.  “You say overnourished like it’s a bad thing, dude,” Gunnlaug says with a look of disapproval.

“But wait,” I say, anticipating twentieth-century cable TV pitchman Billy Mays, “there’s more.”


“There’s more bad poetry where that came from!”

“Let ‘er rip,” Hallfred says as he unleashes a belch that could be heard in Vinland.

“Okay,” I say, then compose myself and start in again.

She could have been my winter consort
if I’d paid more attention to her
But I was consumed by televised sport
and another Vike came to woo her.



Vinland, via the scenic route

I’m surprised to see a look of empathy on Gunnlaug’s face.  “That’s beautiful, man,” he says as he pretends there’s something in his eye in order to hide the fact that he’s wiping away a tear.  “Ain’t that always the way.  You’d like to have a relationship with a woman, but you want some freaking adventure with your guy friends, too.”

Hallfred, on the other hand, being the Troublesome Poet that he is, is unmoved.  “What the hell are televised sports?” he asks.

“It’s an anachronism I threw in for dramatic effect,” I say.  “This is a stupid blog post–you’re going to have to wilfully suspend disbelief if you’re going to get anything out of it.”

He takes this in slowly, and mutters a grudging “Okay–that was pretty good.”  He’s not the brightest shield on the battlefield, if you know what I mean, but he leaves a pretty wide wake at poetry slams because of his brooding good looks and primitive style.  Personally, I think it’s all a facade.  He’s so dumb his descendants will be going bare-chested to football games in Minnesota winters seven centuries hence.

“Show me what you got, big fella,“ I say to him throwing down the poetic gauntlet.

He pops a handful of squirrel nuts into his mouth, and washes them down with a gulp of beer.  “Here goes,” he says, and begins:

My old lady’s quite a dish
if I do say so myself.
She don’t come along when I icefish,
she eats tuna from the pantry shelf.

Gunnlaug emits a tepid grunt of approval.  “I sense the difference between your maleness and her femaleness,” he says looking off into the distance, “but you didn’t do much to establish dramatic tension.”

It’s clear that Hallfred is hurt by this faint praise, and he lashes out, bringing his pickaxe down on the bag of Astrix and Obelix Pub Fries that Gunnlaug’s been munching on.  “Anybody can be a critic,” he fumes.  “Let’s hear some poetry out of you, blubber-belly!”

“Well kiss my ass and call it a love story,” Gunnlaug says with a withering smile.  “Looks like Mr. Brutalist has a sensitive side, too.”

“Your doggerel smells like two-year-old Swedish Fish.”

“Actually,” I interject in an effort to keep the peace, “Swedish Fish stay moist and chewy forever in the patented Sta-Fresh resealable bag.”

But Hallfred isn’t letting his rival go.  “Come on, man,” he says angrily, as other patrons turn their heads in the hope of seeing a senseless killing.  “It’s Rhyme Time.”

Gunnlaug looks Hallfred up and down, then a frosty snort of Arctic air escapes from his nostrils.  “It ain’t bragging if you can do it,” he says, then clears his throat.  The silence in the room is broken only when he speaks in a low voice steeped in regret:

I once got a peek of a wench’s breasts
that made me forget I was a Viking.
I’m telling you man, they were the best–
I gave up my Harley and biking.

An audible gasp rose from the crowd.  The ultimate aesthetic error of Viking poetry–to succumb to the wiles of a woman!  How was Gunnlaug going to get out of the lyrical gulag he’d wandered into?

She had a big hat with horns festooned
and said “Dear Vike, please impale me.”
But a friend had some tickets to the Wild vs. Bruins
“Stay with me,” she cried, “and don’t fail me!”

Now it was Hallfred’s turn to snort.  “The first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole,” he said with a sneer, “is to stop digging.”

“Hold your freaking reindeer,” Gunnlaug said.  “I ain’t through.”

He took a deep breath, then began again.

I looked in her eyes, both drowning in tears–
Though watery, they still looked nice.
“Look,” I said, “I’ll make it up to you dear–
I’ll take you to Smurfs on Ice!”

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

Firing Truman Capote on a Snowy Evening

Truman Capote was fired from his job as a copy boy for The New Yorker after he angered Robert Frost.

Whose kid this is, I do not know,
He seems to have a job here, though.
He’s irritating, and quite fey,
If they ask me, he’s got to go.

He putters about the place all day,
and never runs out of things to say.
He wants to write—give me a break!
I truly wish he’d go away.

He gives his little head a shake
When he points out my rare mistake,
I glare at him, the little creep,
A budding novelist, on the make.

The New Yorker’s a place where writers can sleep
for years on end, not earning their keep,
but I’m stuck with this little *bleep*–
It’s quite enough to make one weep.

 

The Night My Wife Got Oil Can Boyd’s Autograph

I’ll never forget, ‘til I slip into the void,
The night my wife got an autograph from Oil Can Boyd.
We were dining in a restaurant in nearby Newton,
where people take yoga, and sleep on futons.

Image result for oil can boyd wikipedia

The former Red Sox pitcher was sitting at the bar,
making cracks about women, both near and far.
“Who’s that annoying fellow in the baseball cap?”
He was drinking a beer, but it wasn’t on tap.

I told her that he was a man named Dennis,
who’d excelled at baseball, but I don’t think tennis.
At some point in his life a fellow man
had tagged him with the nickname “Oil Can.”

“What does that mean?” she asked and I told her,
it referred to his drink, in the can that was colder.
“Down South booze is sometimes called ‘ignorant oil,’
because your cognitive faculties it tends to spoil.”

He was holding forth, so that all could hear,
a breach of decorum, that reached our ears.
Normally she would have harrumphed,
and that would have been that,
but some impulse over reserve did triumph,
and she shot out of her chair like a scalded cat.

Image result for oil can boyd wikipedia

“Excuse me,” she said to the nutty right-hander,
“I was wondering if I could get your autograph?”
She’s normally not capable of such forthright candor,
but Can didn’t know that, didn’t count it a gaffe.

“Who’s it for?” he said with an upraised eyebrow.
He seemed . . . skeptical, and dubious somehow.
Was she playing the role of a distaff John Alden
while I—mortified—was the shy Myles Standish?
When a guy wants an autograph he does his own callin’–
instead of burying his head in his barbecue sandwich.

“It’s for my friend . . . David!” she said with a smile.
“Who’s David?” he asked, then supplied his own answer:
“I suppose he’s a kid who’s dying of cancer.”
I’d never seen her pull off such duplicitous guile.

Image result for blond yuppie woman autograph

Can eyed her up, then also down,
saw her wedding ring, made a little frown.
Cocked his head, made a little moue,
then signed a napkin, as ballplayers do.

She thanked him, and he watched as she walked away.
He didn’t seem to mind her, but down to this day–
I don’t know what happened, what turned her around,
to make her a late-in-life autograph hound.
She’d always been shy, and also retiring,
A mistress of etiquette, really quite inspiring.

She didn’t know Can from a hole-in-the-wall,
had no idea he’d begun his fall
in the ’86 Series, against the New York Mets,
that we’d watched together at a party one night.
He was the Game 7 starter, and he was all set,
to end Bambino’s Curse, the Red Sox fans’ plight.

But a rain delay allowed the Sox skipper
to start another hurler–Bruce Hurst.
Can didn’t like it, and not feeling chipper,
went to the clubhouse, and bad turned to worse.

He drank ignorant oil from twelve-ounce cans,
removing himself from relief pitching plans.
Except for one season, he was never the same;
with the Expos, in ’90, when he won ten games.

Image result for happy couples restaurant newton mass

So the next time you see a former major leaguer,
in a bar having drinks, and you’re wife’s feeling eager
to get him to add his forlorn scribble
to an ephemeral item, stop her, don’t quibble.

The man’s entitled to his peace and quiet,
and he might need a drink–go ahead and buy it.

Vieru Chiznu-Prut, Freedonian “New Wave” Poet, Dead at 84

DOS FLEDENS, Freedonia.  Vieru Chiznu-Prut, a seminal figure in the “New Wave” movement that transformed the poetry of this consonant-loving nation, has died after crashing his Vespa motorbike into an eggplant stand near his home here.  He was 84.


Freedonian “New Wave” Poets, 1939

 

“It was Chiznu-Prut, more than any other figure of the New Wave, who freed his people’s poetry from the monotonous Ø-æ-ç-å rhyme scheme of the past,” noted Barbara Wexford-Miluski, a professor of comparative literature at The College of Chillicothe, Chillicothe, Ohio.  “He cut a dashing figure on his Vespa, but his love of fuel economy eventually spelled his doom.”


Plangent Breadsticks, influential poetry journal

 

Prior to the New Wave, Freedonia’s poetry was dominated by the Old Wave, which had wrested the mantle of literary pre-eminence from the Even Older Wave at the end of World War I.  The New Wave poets chafed under the overbearing authority of the Old Wave, but broke free with a collective chapbook of poems defiantly titled “Dog Nearly Itches to Death.”


Marda Vleznik-Oerthke, reading her poems at a New Wave soiree

 

The New Wave began to experiment with “blank verse,” forsaking rhyme in pursuit of artistic innovation.  It was Chiznu-Prut’s “Vortex/Morning Breath” that heralded the dawn of a new day for Freedonian poetry in the inaugural issue of Plangent Breadsticks, an influential quarterly review:

ÈðÞåøûö üýþ ëýë
Ðûýøìþ üýþ øæçå
Î ûëöÞ çðòüòÞÿ
Êßá ÿüå éñç’ò šÅ¾œ¥!


Ezra Pound:  “I’m crazy, but not that crazy.”

 

As translated by Ezra Pound for English-speaking readers, the poem goes as follows:

Roses are red
Violets are blue.
I like goat cheese
and you can’t skate.

A celebration of Chiznu-Prut’s life will be held at the Student Union of the University of Freedonia-Gldansk, where he drank numerous cups of bitter chicory coffee over the years.  He is survived by his wife Glzena, his two mistresses Inirya Olgrsk and Nordinsk Phlegmats, and his cats, Orko and Desmond.

 

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collections “Fauxbituaries,” “Hail Freedonia!” and “poetry is kind of important.”

About Those Glow-in-the-Dark Tasmanian Devils

Using ultraviolet light researchers at Toledo Zoo in Ohio discovered that Tasmanian Devils glow in the dark.

Chlloe.com

Let me give it to you on the level—
I’m leery of glow-in-the-dark Tasmanian Devils.
Perhaps I’m being less than chivalrous,
but Tasmanian Devils are, alas, carnivorous,
and a human, in case you weren’t aware of it
is a walking meat stick from feet to hair of it.

I know, I know, people get all goopial
because Tasmanian Devils are also marsupial,
but frankly, just because an animal’s got a pocket
doesn’t mean I want him nibbling on my lockets.
When feeding they’re apparently quite ferocious,
with a strong bite whether they’re old or precocious.

T-Devil mothers have only four nipples
for all of their young’uns to suckle and gripple.
Since a litter can run to 20 or thirty
manners at dinner can get kind of shirty.
As a result, not many newborns survive,
which sucks if they prefer to remain alive.

But glowing, you’ll say, makes them more visible,
which ought to be a good thing; I find that risible.
Tasmanian Devils are cute in cartoons
or on party favors, or mylar balloons.
But if there’s a chance one is lurking about,
rather than face his cute little snout,
I’ll stay inside while there’s any doubt
and firmly resolve not to come out.

Whistling Monk to the Birds

It was late afternoon, on a Sunday,
and I was starting to grill.
I heard the birds singing,
and with time to kill
I thought I’d whistle them some Monk,

see if we could get something going.
I figured “Blue Monk” would be
a good vehicle for inter-species
communication.  They might not
recognize it, but if they were

hip, they’d catch on soon enough.
And so I started in B flat,
and waited to hear their response.
After a brief hesitation,
sure enough, they answered back

with the sub-dominant riff, and
we were off to the races.  Back
and forth; keeping time if not
precisely the melody, it was more
like Claude Messiaen than

Thelonious, but still—it was a
moment.  They were perched
at the top of the trees off our porch,
and when the wind stirred them,
they took off, to their next gig.

 

Her Poetry Sucked

She was frail, and lithe and wan–
Most delicate thing I’d laid eyes on.
I’d have killed to possess her by usufruct–
Except for one thing: her poetry sucked.

She had silver threads among the gold
that suggested loves once young, now old.
I’d have fallen for her like a loaded dump truck–
Except for one thing: her poetry sucked.

“Please read this for me, and see what you think,”
She said as she passed me her paper and ink.
“I’m not sure it works,” she modestly clucked.
I had to agree: her poetry sucked.

I scanned her lines–it was clear she had not.
I tried to make sense of what she had wrought.
“It’s . . . different,” I said, as her hair she plucked.
I concealed my conclusion: her poetry sucked.

I found myself poetically unstimulated,
but I was aroused, and so I dissimulated.
You see, in order for me to get–uh, laid–
I couldn’t have told her: her poetry sucked.

More Poets Getting Published With Suicide Bluff

SOMERVILLE, Mass.  This former blue-collar suburb has become “The Brooklyn of Greater Boston,” with more poets per square mile than any other zip code in New England.  “You can’t throw a brick without hitting a poet around here,” says Marty Schloss, owner of The Tired Owl, a used book store.  “I know, we tried last week, nearly killed a guy.”

Given the art form’s particularly unremunerative nature, a fair amount of angst is felt every morning when Sylvia Plath wannabes turn on their computers and find email rejection letters that mean their day of fame is further delayed.  No one has been more vocal in her disappointment than Chloe Nath, who is so far unpublished while her roommate Siobhan Clough is building a resume that may soon land her a low-paying teaching job, in addition to her current low-paying job waiting tables.


“Chloe’s a loser/this she knows/we don’t need to tell her so.”

 

The two women woke up one January morning to identical notices from bRoken sPoke, the student literary magazine of the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk, but their reactions were as different as their hair color, blonde in Nath’s case, black for Clough.  “They send the nicest rejections,” Clough says as she reads the lit mag’s encouragement that she try them again.  In Nath’s eyes, however, it was one more symbol of her failure and, after she allowed herself a mirthless little laugh, she turned her mordant wit on the publication that had just turned down her seven stanza tercet as “not quite what we are looking for right now.”

“Thanks for your prompt reply,” she wrote back.  “I guess I’ll go take a warm bath and slit my wrists,” she added, then went to the kitchen to pour herself another cup of coffee.


Chloe:  “Really?  You don’t think it’s terrible after all?”

 

By the time she was back at her desk, however, Nath had received a follow-up email from bRoken sPoke.  “Dear Chloe,” the faceless editor said, “upon further review–like a football referee if we may be allowed a vulgar simile–we are accepting your ‘Gulls at the Town Dump,’ which will run in our Summer Fun and Despair issue.  Congratulations!”

The budding poetess’s inadvertent success spread by word-of-mouth through coffee houses and craft beer brew pubs, and when imitated dramatically increased the acceptance rate of those who used it.  As a result, a firestorm of controversy has broken out in the small but highly-competitive world of literary verse, with two camps taking opposite sides of the question “Should poets fake suicide in order to scare the crap out of lit mags and get published?”


“She’s using sleeping pills, right–no bloodshed?”

 

Robert Ricciardelli, interim editor-in-chief of plangent voices, says no, pointing to the high cost of liability insurance he must carry in case a poet’s family or lover comes after them for staring down a suicide threat.  “We have no way of knowing if someone is serious,” he says as inspects a poorly-written sonnet for symbols of desperation.  “If I wrote stuff this bad I’d kill myself too, but you never know what reserves a person can draw on in a time of crisis–religion, philosophy, money.”

But Nath says the highbrow quarterlies are fair game for the pain they inflict on literary artistes such as herself.  “plangent voices took two years to turn down Burnt Potholders,” a six-poem cycle on disasters that occurred in her kitchen as she worked her way through The Moosewood Cookbook.  “I went through fifteen boyfriends in that time.”

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

“Dead Boyfriend Club” Helps Poetesses Get Serious

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.  elena gotchko is the editor-in-chief of plangent voices (“upper-case free since 2003!”), a literary quarterly whose mission is to bring difficult, even impenetrable verse to its readers, but she’s tearing her hair out today for reasons other than the torments of artistic creation.  “let the whining begin,” she says as she hits the “Send” button to deliver rejection notices to hundreds of female writers whose poems have been turned down for the spring issue.


One of the lucky ones.

Within seconds, the anguished replies start to fly in, like birds scurrying for cover from a storm.  “You don’t know how much this hurts, elena,” writes Elizabet Virgule, whose “Seagulls at the Town Dump,” a six haiku cycle about the tragedy of summer vacationers who don’t recycle, was dinged with a form rejection.  “I was a charter subscriber, AND I bought the coffee mug, sweatshirt and mouse pad from the plangent voices website gift shop!”

But Gotchko doesn’t back down.  “elizabet, your poems still lack the tragic sense of life that i find in the verse of contemporaries of yours such as marta huinguis, whose ‘ode to ian’ dives deeper into the brackish hell of the human condition than your little ditties.”

But with an eye on the bottom line, which currently–as always–shows a deficit, gotchko throws a life preserver Virgule’s way.  “if you act now, you can join the dead boyfriend club for the incredibly low price of only $109.95, not including shipping and sales tax.”

The Dead Boyfriend Club is gotchko’s innovation to bring necessary misery into the lives of poetesses whose work shimmers on the surface but has no depth.  “Until you’ve suffered some grievous loss, you’re just tossing a word salad,” says Professor Ewing Carter, Jr. of Emory University.  “Some of these women go from editor of their high school literary magazine to English major to MFA without suffering anything worse than a campus parking ticket.”

For a one-time setup charge, the Dead Boyfriend Club provides members with a fictional deceased boyfriend they can mourn through poetry, including a facsimile birth certificate, childhood pictures, and bad juvenile doggerel that the poet himself tried to suppress, but which the surviving spouse/girlfriend either honors or criticizes for the false impression of her that it gave to a miniscule reading public.


“Double suicide?  Okay, you go first.”

A monthly maintenance fee adds details that can either further infuriate the writer–an affair with a fictional creative writing instructor–or hasten a downward spiral of mourning.  “When I found out that my ‘Mark’ was going to give me a festschrift for my thirtieth birthday before his life was cut short by an errant Frisbee, I finally found the voice I needed to channel everyday bitchiness into the universality of great art,” says Huinguis, who plunked down $450 for a lifetime membership.


“Wystan–look out!”

After a bit of back-and-forth with gotchko, Virgule signs up for a trial membership, which she can cancel within 30 days if she doesn’t like the dead boyfriend gotchko hooks her up with.  She downloads the software and, after reading through the bio of “Wystan Huber,” a promising young poet whose fictional life came to a premature end when his skinny necktie was caught in the automatic feed of a photocopier, is on the verge of tears.  The on-line options presented to her are “Pleasant memories” and “Painful memories,”and she clicks on the latter to discover that “Wystan” made a practice of selling her classical CDs at a used record shop to support his addiction to “healthy” snack foods.  Her cheeks flush with color, and for the first time in months the words that flow from her pen are alive with emotion and not just manufactured outrage over environmental issues.  I rage, she writes,

rage against
the words on the page that
limn a life led with lies.

She pauses for a moment to collect herself.

My Vivaldi–gone!
and so is my Britten,
all so you could feed
your hunger,
and neglect MY needs.
Such chutzpah–how brazen!
That you would sell my music
for a bag of yogurt-covered raisins!

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