The Boy With the Big Head

There once was a boy,
name of Fred,
who while otherwise normal
had a very big head.

Other kids would look at him in wonder
and break into giggles and furtive laughs.
Gamblers who bet on sports over/unders
made book on his hat size, which was 8½.

Butt of jokes, object of scorn
he often would question why he was born.
At last one day he sat down and cried
on a vacant park bench where he was spied . . .

. . . by a UFO, parked nearby
on a hunt for humans to abduct.
His sobbing done, he opened his eyes
and seeing the saucer, said “I’m—screwed.”

The spacecraft was filled with odd-looking beings–
large green eyes, and silvery skin.
They approached him slowly, with long pointy probes.
He was too scared to call his next of kin.

Just as the space folks were about to impale him
as part of a survey of earthlings they’d found,
one of their number stepped forward and stopped them
and gazed on him fondly, with a look profound.

“This one’s mine,” the she-creature said.
“I like his cute teeny-tiny head,”
which compared to hers, looked perfectly fine,
so she asked him to come with them and dine.

The two hit it off, as they discovered,
they both liked pizza and The Grateful Dead.
And so he took an alien lover
who cared not one whit ‘bout the size of his head.

Moral: Weirdness is in the eye of the beholder.

 

 

 

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With Robert Frost, at Walmart

Town officials are considering zoning changes that would permit strip malls, fast-food outlets and big-box stores to be built a short distance from Robert Frost’s farm.

                   The Boston Globe


Frost

It’s Saturday morning, time for my weekly check on my fellow rustic poet, old man Frost, who lives down the road less travelled. He’s a cranky old cuss, but you would be too if you’d fallen as far as he has. In 1960, he was America’s most revered poet and spoke at Kennedy’s inauguration. Today, he’s seen his star eclipsed by a Republican surety bond lawyer, Wallace Stevens, whose poetry Frost dismisses as “bric-a-brac.” You’ve got to love the old fart. Frost, that is, not Stevens, who’s an unloveable old fart.

Stevens
Wallace Stevens, going out for ice cream.

 

I stop at Frost’s mailbox. A few flyers, an oil and lube job offer from the local tire and battery store, an expiration notice from plangent voices, the quarterly journal of avant-garde poetry edited by my former lover, elena gotchko.


“my love is like a red, red rose/that’s somehow stuck inside my nose.”

 

elena and I had parted ways when she showed up at our little apartment with a skunk-streak dyed into her hair a few years back to announce that she’d had the capital letters removed from her name–and was leaving me.

“you stultify me,” she had said, eschewing the upper case as she spoke with emotion not yet recollected in tranquility. “you’re holding me back–you with your insistence on meter and rhyme.” Fine, I said, and I’d never regretted it. How she ever roped Frost into subscribing was a mystery to me, although he was a sucker for those Publisher’s Clearing House come-ons.


“This Frost guy’s apparently gone for a walk in woods. Who’s next on the list?”

 

I knock on the door and Frost opens it up right away–he’s always eager for a little company and to get out of the house. It must be lonely out here, living all by himself with nothing but the sound of cars rushing by.

“I’m ready,” he says, the cheap polyester “gimme” hat already on his head. I don’t know what it is with old men and free baseball caps–they can’t resist them.

“Hey, Bob,” I say as I try to straighten his cockeyed hat a bit. “I got your mail.”

He looks at it without interest and, as usual, launches into perfectly-formed verse:

A hushed October morning mild,
with leaves as frail as Kleenex tissue;
tomorrow’s mail, if it be wild
would bring, perhaps, a swimsuit issue.

I allow myself a little laugh. There are two things about being an old man I’m looking forward to: one, you can wear just about anything you want; and two, you can be a complete lecher, and say just about anything you want to women, and no one seems to mind.  At some point, you become entitled to a presumption of not innocence, but incompetence.

“No, that won’t come until February,” I say to him.

“Okay,” he says after he absorbs this information. He turns to close the door and his cat, an orange tabby named Demiurge, stakes out a wary watch on the threshold.

“I shan’t be gone long,” he says to the cat. “You come too.”

“Bob, we’ve gone over this before,” I say with repressed exasperation. “You can’t bring a cat into McDonald’s.”


Senior citizen coffee at McDonald’s

The thought of the golden arches causes him to lose interest in his cat. I can see by the far-away look in his eyes he’s thinking of the Senior Citizens coffee special and again, he can’t deny his muse.

I’m going to get my elderly java
by riding with you over dales and hills.
It tastes like ash and is hot as lava
but I can’t resist those free refills.

We head out towards State Highway 28 with the more distinguished poet in the car staring out the passenger side window at the bright fall colors; the orange of Home Depot, the red of Staples, the yellow Walmart smiley face on a billboard.

“Turn here,” Frost says sharply.

“Don’t you want to get something to eat first?”

“Depends.”

“Depends on what? Your only choice is fast food.”

“No–I need some Depends.”

Dawn breaks on Marblehead, as we say in New England.

“Okay,” I say, a little chagrined that I’ve forced him to disclose the one aspect of growing old I’m really not looking forward to.

We make our way through the parking lot and enter the store where we are met by one of the chain’s ever-present greeters, a white-haired old man in a blue vest festooned with inoffensive buttons. I try to avoid eye contact and accelerate past him when I hear Frost’s voice boom out–to the extent that he’s capable of producing such a sound, even metaphorically–”Well if it isn’t The Emperor of Ice Cream–Wallace Stevens!”

Stevens’ face registers the shock of recognition that Herman Melville spoke of, when a man of letters comes face to face with one of his rivals while working a minimum-wage job to make ends meet. Being the darling of the academy doesn’t do you much good if you have to mix wet cat food and pinto beans to make chili.

“Hello, Frost,” Stevens says in a frosty tone. “How’s the poet of–subjects.” He says this last word with a sneer.

“Fine,” says Frost. “Tell me, since you must know–down which aisle would I find–bric-a-brac?”

Stevens draws himself up to his full six feet, seven inches, looks down at Frost as if from Olympus, and begins to speak:

I placed a Hummel figurine,
Down to your left, in aisle three.
‘Twas much too tacky for myself
But not too gauche for one such as thee.

I can tell that Frost is pissed, but he’s trying hard not to let it show.

“C’mon Bob–we haven’t got time for this nonsense,” I say as I take him by the elbow. “We’ve got miles to go, and . . . ”

He cuts me off and glares at Stevens, not about to back off in this mano-a-mano poetry throwdown.

He squares his shoulders and even I can’t believe the fearful symmetry of what comes out of his mouth next:

Two aisles diverged ‘neath a yellow face,
that bore a sickly, foolish grin. And I–
I took the one marked “Incontinence,”
and that has made all the difference.

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

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.”

You Can Keep Your Glow-in-the-Dark Sheep

          The Animal Reproduction Institute of Uruguay has produced a genetically altered lamb that glows under ultraviolet light.

                                    The Wall Street Journal

You know what really gives me the creeps?
The very idea of phosphorescent sheeps.
I’m generally partial to wooly lambikins
But a glow-in-the-dark one
would scare me out of my jammikins.

When I’m tired I want sheep
merely to count them.
Farm boys and perverts
like to mount them.
But an animal guaranteed to give me a fright
would be a sheep that shines brightly in the night.

sheep

I realize that scientists always try to make things better
They dot i’s and cross t’s and fix other wayward letters
But they can keep their new ewe, I’d rather not vet her,
The one from which spinners make incandescent sweaters.

If I Had Math Skills

If I had math skills, oh the things I could do!
I could probably tell you the square root of two.
I’m sure I could reel off the Rule of 78s
and impress both close friends and also blind dates.

But alas, I crapped out at geometry
so you won’t get any math insights out of me.
I don’t know calculus, don’t know trig,
don’t know statistics, and don’t care a fig.

You see, there was a girl in the back row of class,
and rather than listen I pined for the lass.
And so I emerged from Algebra II
knowing nowhere near as much as you.

While the instructor explained a quadratic equation
my mind was abroad on a romantic vacation.
It’s hard to learn what a teacher can teach
when you’re with a hot chick on an imaginary beach.

I’d slather her body with Sea ‘n Ski lotion
while we two relaxed in the breeze off the ocean.
The learned prof would drone on about binomials
While I thought thoughts that were, uh, matrimonial.

Sadly, the girl moved away,
Haven’t seen her for years, down to this day.
I remember her smile, eyeliner and bra–
but am hazy on details about algebra.

Let Us Now Praise Our Not-Yet-Famous Selves

The poets and writers who over-promote
would fill, I think, a very large boat
and if it sank in stormy seas
well, that would be perfectly all right with me.

I check my email and I find
a note re a story that will blow my mind!
Comments are welcome! (or so goes the hype).
Me doubts that he’s seeking the negative type.

And then there’s the poetess, who one soir
promised a poem, both deep and noir.
“Stop by and visit!” she screamed to the joint.
Does grim verse call for an exclamation point?

My mom told me not to break my arm
patting myself on the back.
It’s not the blow that does you harm–
it’s the modesty that you lack.

I scroll through a bunch and I don’t know who’s worse–
the fisher for compliments, the butcher of verse,
but I’ll make both an offer and not sit and curse;
I’ll read your stuff if you’ll read my crap first.

I Used to Have Eyebrows

I used to have eyebrows, I swear I did;
I had ‘em as a teen, I had ‘em as a kid.
And yet today when I look in a mirror,
No eyebrows there, so no eyebrows here.

I seem to recall my eyebrow-less state
Is an innovation of recent date.
Last summer vacation we rented a place
That came with a gas grille, without instructions.
As I tried to light it I stuck my face
Down near the pilot, a brilliant deduction.

When I finally managed to get the thing started,
It did so with a blast and my eyebrows departed.