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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.