Ballot Questions Show Americans United by Deep Divisions

ARLINGTON, Virginia.  A survey of state-wide ballot questions voted on yesterday reveals a nation deeply divided by partisan differences that nonetheless unite people with common viewpoints, or something like that.


Tatum:  “You have to ‘keep it simple, stupid,’ without letting people know you think they’re stupid.”

“The measures that passed tended to be very simple statements of bedrock principles,” said George Mason University political scientist Gerald Tatum, “or else people ganging up on an unpopular minority.”


“Here comes a guy with Mass. plates now.”

In Vermont, voters approved a $14 million tax on a single package of cigarettes, enough to close that state’s projected budget deficit.  “All we got to do is sell one pack to some hedge fund guy from New York or Massachusetts driving through in his Lexus, and we’ll be able to pave a lot of state roads,” said Lyle Hampton, state Highway Commissioner.

Here is a rundown of initiatives in other states:


Porkepyn pork despyne.

Tennessee: Voters rejected a ban on “porcupine racing,” the practice of putting two live members of this spiny species of rodent in a laundromat dryer, throwing in a sheet of ”Bounce” fabric softener, setting the timer for twenty minutes and pushing “start.”  “If your porcupine survives, you win,” says State Fish and Game Warden Oliver Crawford.  “It will come out fluffier as well, although there may be guts stuck in the lint trap for the next customer.”


Bounce:  Adds softness to even the toughest spinous hog.

Wyoming: A broad-based coalition of public policy groups and churches succeeded in passing a measure requiring mandatory condom use by all funeral home workers.  “While most of our mortuary scientists have a pretty clean record when it comes to necrophilia, it’s the 95% who are bad apples that spoil it for the good guys,” said State Department of Health Secretary Ronald Golson.  “The last thing you want is for a loved one to become pregnant after their health insurance has run out because of death.”


Drive-through funeral home:  What’s the rush?

Michigan:  An initiative petition here will require heterosexual couples to use gay wedding planners.  “Your hard-core left-wing types think they can cram this kind of social engineering down the throats of good, hard-working people,” says Marriage Must Mean Something spokesman Charles “Buddy” Montgomery, who promised a referendum drive to repeal the law.


“That doesn’t look like Marilyn Sue on the right.”

“I for one am not going to stand idly by while my daughter has to hire some fruitcake who’s going to talk her into a dark chocolate wedding cake.”  The measure is expected to pass but some absentee ballots have been challenged because they came back scented.

Ohio: This state voted to tax out-of-state fans who attend Ohio State football games.  “Some people look at the world the way it is and ask ‘Why?’” said Earl Bucholtz, Commissioner of Revenue.  “I look at all them Michigan fans traipsing through this state and say–’What the hell?’”  The State of Michigan has challenged the new law by filing an appeal to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

California:  A law banning plastic-stemmed cotton swabs passed overwhelmingly after a photo of a seahorse dragging home one of the ubiquitous consumer items went “viral” on the internet, not as a virus per se.  Pharmacists and health care professionals will seek its repeal.  “I for one do not care what kind of health and beauty aids a small marine fish uses,” says Emil Nostrand, who works the night shift filling prescriptions at the San Dorito CVS.  “And neither should you.”

Massachusetts:  A law that would legalize the possession of psychedelic drugs by the terminally well-organized was still too close to call in this liberal Northeastern state.  “We made the health argument that it will help women who alphabetize their spices or save their receipts for six years to understand that not everything has to be in its place,” said petition drive organizer Mark Warden.  “In fact, has anybody seen my car keys?”  Warden says he is depending on late-counted absentee ballots to put his bill over the top.  “You can get an absentee ballot if you’re absent-minded, right?”

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Poets

With apologies to Waylon Jennings, not that he needs them.

They’re hard to love and harder to hold.
They’ll give you a poem ‘stead of diamonds or gold,
Ripped off from Auden, or maybe from Yeats
Somethin’ that won’t make them rich as Bill Gates.
As each night fades into a new day
They can’t find a job with their MFA’s.

They think it’s a safe job hanging ’round a faculty lounge.
But when mealtime comes, they find that they have to scrounge.
There isn’t much market our there in the world for sestinas.
They’d make more as a cop, or even a ballerina.
They’re wrong in the head, I think you know that for sure
Their poems are the symptoms, and lettin’ them write is no cure.

Poets git lost when they’re out drivin’ around,
Wanderin’ lonely as old Bill Wordsworth’s cloud.
They takin’ the road less traveled, like Robert Frost
But unlike him they tend to get lost.
They’re anal retentive about every one of their commas,
Freud would have a heyday analyzin’ their mommas.

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be poets
They’re headed for ruin for sure and both of you know it.
Let ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such,
the schoolin’s as long, but poets don’t make as much.
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be poets.
‘Cause they’re always at home but they’re always alone.
Even with someone they love.

My Poetic Life Insurance Exam

“Do you think you have enough life insurance?” my wife asked with concern after watching another half hour’s worth of depressing news about the coronavirus.


“All those Star Wars tchotchkes!”

“Why do you ask?” I asked, and not unreasonably I thought.

“Well–you’re 71.  You’re at high risk.”

“I’m in good health.”

“Yes–but if you traipse mud on the new white carpet again, I might be tempted to kill you.”

We shared a laugh, but I wasn’t going to let her off easy.

“Life insurance isn’t for me, it’s for you.  If I die I won’t care how much insurance I had, and I’m leaving everything I have to you.”

“Everything?”

“Yep.  The Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson CDs, the boxing books, the Star Wars collectible plastic drink cups, the Betty Boop DVDs.”

“Thanks, but I’m going to need some liquid assets when you die.”

“Why?”

“To pay somebody to haul all that stuff away.”

I looked in her eyes and saw tiny little tears forming at the corners.  We’ve always had some common interests–ballet, wine, our children–but each of us also had other enthusiasms that lay outside the intersection of the Venn Diagram of our marriage.  I respected her space, and she had no interest in mine.

“Okay–I get it.  I’ll call the insurance agent today and get a quote.”

It was the work of just a few minutes to learn that, even at my advanced age, I might qualify for plenty of additional term insurance, at very affordable rates.  All I had to do was pass a physical–and they’d do it in my home!

I set up an appointment and the next day a pert nurse arrived with her black bag of medical equipment to check me out–I mean my vital signs.  Without even studying the night before, I passed all her tests–cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index, the works.

“You’re in great shape,” she said as she took off her stethoscope.  “I just have to ask you a few questions about hazardous pastimes you may indulge in.”

“Like what?”

“Let me read the list.”

“Okay.”

“Skydiving?”

“Nope.”

“Scuba diving?”

“I used to love Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges when I was a kid, but I’ve never done it myself.”

“Okay.  Flying or parasailing?”

“Nope.”

“Poetry?”

I gulped involuntarily.  I had no idea that my ham-handed attempts at versification might stand in the way of my wife’s desire to maintain her standard of living after I croaked.

“What does poetry have to do with life insurance?”

“We don’t have to write a policy to cover someone who engages in risky activities.”

“What’s risky about poetry–besides paper cuts?”

“Here are the stats,” she said, pulling a pamphlet out of her bag, the kind you see in racks in doctors’ offices about the causes and cures of psoriasis and Osgood Schlatter’s Disease.

You could have knocked me over with a feather duster, if not a feather, but the facts were as plain as a pig on a sofa, to mix my metaphors.  The text referred to a classic study by James C. Kaufman and John Baer that found poets to have the highest risk of suicide of any type of artist.

“So your answer is?” she continued with an eyebrow arched upwards now that I’d tipped my hand, so to speak.

“Uh, yes, I write poetry.  At least think I do, even if the editors of both general circulation and literary magazines often–almost always–disagree.”

She check a box on her form in a perfunctory manner.  “What kind of poetry–dramatic, narrative, or lyrical?”

“A little of all three,” I said nervously.

“Okay–hit me,” she said as she pushed up one sleeve, as if she was really getting down to work.

“Well, uh, in the dramatic mode, I wrote a full-length verse play about St. Thomas a Becket that will probably never see the light of day.”

“Okay.  Narrative?”

I hesitated, a little embarrassed to continue.  “I’ve, uh, done a series of blank verse poems about . . .”

“Yes?”

“St. Louis Cardinals players of the 1960s.”

I thought I saw just a flicker of a snicker form on her lips.  “English major?” I asked, taking the offensive.

“Minor.  Now comes the hard part.  Any lyrical poetry in your little moleskin leather notebooks?”

I swallowed, hard, and turned my head to avoid her gimlet gaze.  Nothing I hate worse than having the full force of a woman’s gimlet–whatever that is–trained on me.

“Well?–I’m waiting.”

“YES!” I said, and I put some starch into my reply.  “I’ve written the typical moonstruck love poems any boy of 16 would produce.  Only I waited until I was middle-aged to do it–so I could get them right.  Is that so wrong?”

I could tell my words had had an effect on her.  She looked me up and down with a clinical attitude, as if to say she was only doing her part in the world-wide effort to stop the spread of bad poetry being produced right now, by otherwise well-meaning people who think that anybody else gives a shit.

“No, no, there’s nothing wrong with that,” she said as she returned her gaze to the form and made two little “x’s” at the bottom.  “But it’s going to cost you an extra $3.95 per month for every $100,000 worth of coverage.”

Don’t Come Home From Book Group With Lovin’ on Your Mind

(with apologies to Loretta Lynn)

Image result for don't come home from drinkin with lovin on your mind

Well you thought I’d be waitin’ up when you came home last night
You’d been out with all the girls and you ended up half tight.
But books and chardonnay don’t mix, leave a bottle or me behind
And don’t come home from book group with lovin’ on your mind.

Image result for book groupbooks

No don’t come from book group with lovin’ on your mind.
Keep talkin’ about your novel and suckin’ down your wine.
When you gals read that chick lit it don’t improve your minds,
So don’t come home from book group with lovin’ on your mind.

Image result for book group

You’re never home, you’re always gone, readin’ bodice rippers.
Many’s the night I’ve laid awake, yearnin’ for your nippers.
But you come in too drunk for love, it happens every time
No don’t come home from book group—with lovin’ on your mind.

I Wish You Loved Me as Much as Your Phone

We’re here together, but I’m all alone.
Your body’s here, but your mind is gone.
I might as well be in The Twilight Zone–
I wish you loved me as much as your phone.

You call me baby, you call me doll–
And then you say “I gotta take this call.”
You talk to someone from parts unknown–
I wish you loved me as much as your phone.

When we get home from our evening date
I think of romance as it’s gettin’ late.
And then I hear that little nuisance ring
I don’t know why you can’t turn off that thing.

You say you love me as you stare at your screen
The way you treat me is beyond obscene.
When you look up you’ll see this bird has flown–
‘Cause you don’t love me as much as your phone.

I Wear My Erudition Lightly

I wear my erudition lightly,
or at least I really try.
If you put on a heavily learned cloak
folks won’t think you’re a regular guy.

So I drop bon mots at cocktail parties
when the conversation starts to flag.
Like “Didja know that a guy named Tiresias
used to walk around all the time in drag?”

Or the fact that Lincoln crossed the Rubicon
to end the Peloponnesian War?
It was either that or the French Revolution,
I’m sure I read it somewhere before.

I’m also good with orthography,
I’m a former spelling bee champ.
I’ve never misspelled H2SO4
And I know why the lady’s a tramp.

I know about quantum mechanics,
Which is a concept thought up by Niels Bohr.
I take my quantum in every three thousand miles
and they lube my four-on-the floor.

I took some classes in vers libre,
which I found to be most stimulating.
I also drink mojitos and daiquiris,
and I find them all very intoxicating

If you want to display your brainpower,
don’t be afraid to let it all out.
When people say they think I’m unlearned,
I don’t leave any room for doubt.

To Make Ends Meet, More Poets Turn to Discounters

NEEDHAM, Mass.  Curtis Bascomb, Jr. is a third-generation family business owner, so he has more than just his time and money invested in his workplace.  “Grandad founded this place on a promise,” he says with a trace of a lump in his throat.  “He believed no poet should ever go without a figure of speech because of high prices.”


“I’m looking for a synechdoche for wine.”

 

And so the Poets Discount Supply House was born, a harmonic convergence of New England thrift and the historically impecunious nature of the poet’s trade.  “I’m entering my coming-of-age collection in twenty chapbook contests at an average of $22.50 a pop,” says would-be poet Todd Heftwig, who prowls the aisles looking for bargains.  “If I can pick up a slightly-used simile or metaphor at half-price, I may be able to recoup my investment.”

poetry1
“There’s a size 7 and a half sestina back here with seagulls in it.”

 

In addition to garden variety figures of speech such as similes and metaphors, the Poets Discount Supply House carries more exotic forms such as synechdoches and metonyms, as well as a deli case stocked with onomatopeia and tropes.  “We buy this stuff fresh every day,” says Bob Vibeck, who started with the company when it was run by Bascomb’s father, Curtis Sr., in the 1960s.  “That’s why poets come back to us even when they hit the big time, which is really still the little time.”

The store is located in an undistinguished warehouse off a busy commercial street, part of the family’s business plan to keep costs down.  “We can sell you a package of three generic themes–seagulls, unrequited love, the effect John Coltrane’s music had on you in college–at half the cost of the high-end retailers,” says Curtis Senior.  “That’s our sweet spot.”


“If you need a rhyme for the word ‘love,’ line up on the right.”

 

The store is ramping up for what is usually its busiest time of the year, as shoppers stop in for a turn of phrase for a Thanksgiving toast, or get ready for Christmas proposals, when the family will bring in temporary sales help to handle the crush of smitten but unlettered Romeos.  “These guys come in here with something scratched on a cocktail napkin looking for le mot juste,” says Curtis Junior, shaking his head.  “I tell ‘em you can’t bring in your own stuff, you got to buy it here.”

 

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

On Having a Non-Affair With a Flamboyant Minor Dada Poetess

Poet William Carlos Williams had “a non-affair with the flamboyant minor-Dadaist poet Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.”

The New York Times Book Review

Elsa, you must not take it amiss
if I do not succumb to your fervent kiss;
I have a wife I’ve cheated on before
So it’s not because I’m true to the missus.


Williams

 

It’s just that—well, I don’t know how to put this—
With a Dadaist poet a non-affair is the height of erotic bliss.
The way you Dadas turn everything ceiling to floor
If we are to love, a mile is as good as a miss is.


The Baroness, gettin’ jiggy with it.

 

Another impediment, although you I’m lovin’—
I’ve counted your syllables—and you have a dozen!
If we were to marry, my friends I would bore
Introducing “my wife, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.”

So let’s keep it chaste, between you and me,
For minor Dada-ettes forever free should be.
Oh, I forgot, one absurd thing more—
My hat rack adores your other bee’s knee.

That’s Why the Lady is a Slut

She’s never too bloated to eat a Slim Jim.
She never showers before taking a swim.
She belches loudly at the Pizza Hut–
That’s why the lady is a slut.

She’s not the type to play bridge at her club.
Doesn’t like salads, preferring a sub.
If she were a dog you’d call her a mutt–
That’s why the lady is a slut.

 

She likes the free, fresh wind in her hair
As she dares
To drive getaway, it’s okay.
She hates New England, ‘cause it’s cold and it’s damp–
That’s why the lady is a tramp.

 

 

She doesn’t like opera, and hates the ballet–
If a flick’s got subtitles, it isn’t okay.
Won’t do Pilates and it shows in her gut–
That’s why the lady is a slut.

 

Her blue eye shadow says she’s a bimbo.
When she screams at you her arms are akimbo.
An old boyfriend’s name’s tattooed cross her butt–
That’s why the lady is a slut.

trampstamp

Highway Poet Tells Bureaucrat to Hit the Road

ENFIELD, Connecticut.  Mike Abruzzioni is Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Roads and Bridges at State Highway Department District #2 Headquarters here, a position he earned after many years of service, plus frequent contributions to state legislators.  “It ain’t what a lot of people think,” he says of the keys to his success.  “In addition to hard work, there’s a lot of ass-kissing you gotta do.”

Image result for led highway sign

Still, after two decades climbing the bureaucratic ladder he thought he had achieved some measure of personal freedom to do his job as he pleased, including some latitude as to the messages he posts on the Department’s LED message signs.  “Frankly, I didn’t even know Connecticut had a poet laureate,” he says ruefully.  “Seems like a waste of money to me at a time when I got to lay off two brush-hog cutters.”

Image result for brush hog cutter
“I leave a wake where’er I go/That’s what you get whene’er you mow.”

Abruzzioni is referring to the run-in he had with Tristram Morgan, the state’s official poet until December 31st of this year, after he posted “Stay awake/take a break/for safety sake” along Route 1 over the July 4th weekend.  “I didn’t think nothin’ of it, then I get a call the Monday morning after from the Arts & Cultural Council saying they’re filing a grievance against me.”

The complaint referred to the terms and conditions under which Morgan took the largely honorary position of state poet laureate, which pays only a stipend of $2,000 plus a 5-minute shopping spree at Annie’s Gently Used Romance Paperbacks in West Harford.  “POET,” the rider to the standard state contract terms and conditions reads, “shall be the official source of all poetry purchased by the STATE until the expiration of the term hereof,” which the assistant professor at Trinity College says entitles him to craft the traffic messages that are flashed to motorists.

“I found Mr. Abruzzioni’s little doggerel to be deficient in many respects,” Morgan sniffs when the question “Who cares?” is put to him by this reporter.  “An elementary, almost banal rhyme scheme.  The abbreviated line length–surely the marks of a poetaster.”

Image result for state highway headquarters command center
“Take the detour round West Hartford/or what the hell is all my art for?”

In its place Morgan began to post verse that, in the formulation suggested by Archibald MacLeish, tended to “be” rather than “mean” and echoed the work of the state’s most famous poet, the notably obscure Wallace Stevens:

Nutmeg State, Dunkin’ Donuts
Please slow down folks, and don’t go nuts.

When Abruzzioni objected, saying his work was protected by civil service regulations, Morgan began to write poems that crossed the line into advocacy, as Byron’s late work was enflamed by his support of the Greek struggle for independence from Turkey:

Poems written by highway hacks–
They give me bad gas attacks.


Image result for highway line painter truck
“Hey–slow down/What the fuck?/Don’t you pass my/painting truck!”

Ultimately the conflict between the two public employees will be resolved by binding arbitration before a three-member panel composed of a writing instructor from the University of Connecticut-Storrs, an industrial accidents court judge, and Bob Nash, the driver of a line-painting truck who is hoping to move up from two-lane state roads to four-lane highways eventually.  “I’m gonna try to be an impartial judge,” he tells this reporter as he squints into the sun at the end of the workday.  “On the other hand, that D+ I got in senior English means I can never get a job at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.”

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