The Sure Cure for Writer’s Block

She takes her lattes extra skinny.
She drives a Cooper, it’s a Mini.
But when she takes pen in hand to put black on white,
the sad truth is—she can’t write.

His political opinions are properly aligned
towards the conventional wisdom, he’s inclined.
But as much as he tries to get his sentiments right,
His problem is—he can’t write.

They’ve taken the courses, responded to “prompts,”
you’d think that the scribbling part would be a romp.
But as much as they look like writerly types
They’re incapable of what’s known in the trade as “sitzfleisch”:

The ability to sit for hours on end,
to ignore dog, cat, internet, family and friends,
with your butt in your chair,
while your head’s in the air–

that’s what it takes if you want to give shape,
to airy nothingness, not a mouth all agape,
and an eye towards fashion and the au courant dance,
it’s the very opposite of ants in your pants.

Sons of the Idle Rich

The  market’s up, the market’s down
It doesn’t  matter which . . .
With stocks and  bonds and puts and calls
In just the  proper mix.
You’re clipping  coupons, cashing checks
Without a single  hitch . . .
Sons of the  I-dle Ri-ich.

You’ve  got enough to pay the price
For every basic  need . . .
Like ascots,  scotch and cashmere socks
And polo pony  feed.
Your dad he’s got a mistress
‘cause your mom she is a bitch . . .
Sons of the  I-dle Ri-ich.

Whenever you’re  attracted to a woman who is hot . . .
You try to woo  and win her with a sail upon your yacht.
You imitate a rapper when you ask your friends “Wassup?”
It clashes with  your interest in this year’s America’s Cup!

Your  form upon the squash court
is a sight not to be missed.
You finish hot and sweaty
but expect that you’ll be kissed
by girls with names like “Carter”
and end up drunk in a ditch . . .
Sons of the  I-dle Ri-ich.

 

The Ballad of the Headless Bunny

T’was a Sunday morning, the first week of May
A fine and fragrant playful day
I put on my bike shorts, prepared for a ride
Opened the garage door and went outside.

There I stepped down on what looked like a mouse
Bloody and lifeless outside of our house.
I took bag in hand and prepared to grab it
When I realized the thing was the head of a rabbit!

I stepped inside, to speak with Rocco
Our younger male cat, and sort of a jocko.
I said “Thanks for the present you left on the steps.”
“Just earning,” he said, “my keep as your pet.”

“I appreciate all the hunting you do,”
I said as I scraped the gore off of my shoe,
“But you should know, if you haven’t been told
That beheading bunnies is really quite cold.”

“It’s nature,” Roc said, with a cynical glare.
“He may have been cute, but he’s just a March hare
Who wore out his welcome, so I let him have it.
That’s the cause of the death of this beheaded rabbit.”

Up ambled Okie, elder cat statesman.
He’d spent the night downstairs in the basement.
His hunting days over, he’s now much the wiser.
He only chews cat food on his long incisors.

“Kid, you blew it,” he said as he walked up,
“When you rub out a rabbit, you don’t want to get talked up.
Silent but deadly, discreet terminations
Are the type that are favored by all criminal nations.”

The younger buck stood as if stunned by a shot.
“You mean you don’t celebrate, a lot or a jot?”
“No way,” said his brother, who’s now in his dotage.
“You don’t want to be covered by cat crime repotage.”

“The tabloids are vicious, the front page pics grisly,
The stories they offer are hot and quite sizzly.
When word gets round you’re big cat on the block
Every tom in the hood wants to give you a knock.”

So Rocco, a feline who learns as he goes,
Decided he’d rather be writ up in prose.
No Song of Rocco, for this black and white moppet
He ordered the author of this poem to stop it.

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Imported Beers of the Romantic Poets

She is a thing of beauty.  Stella Artois ad, depicting woman drinking beer

 

A Thing of Beauty is a Beer Forever, John Keats

A thing of beauty is a beer forever:
Its foamy head increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will leave
A residue upon the glass, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, belches, and late-night peeing.

She Burps in Beauty, Like a Frog, Lord Byron

She burps in beauty, like a frog
Who sits on lily pad so green,
Resounding nightly in his bog
But to my beery eyes unseen;
Thus mellow’d by a Stella Artois
I urge her not to make a scene.

My Luve’s Like a Cold, Cold Beer, Robert Burns

O my Luve’s like a cold, cold beer
That’s newly poured for me;
O my Luve’s like an I.P.A.
A barkeep gives to me for free.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
Another to me is more dear:
I drink you in with thirsty eyes
But still I need imported beer.

On Mistaking One’s Wife’s Legs for Another’s

I suppose there can be no happier mistake,
And one that I was shocked to make,
Than to look with longing at a female leg
And thinking yourself a rather bad egg

for admiring the calf and the well-turned ankle–
A crime that makes the divorce bar thankful–
Then allowing your gaze to climb slowly higher
To take in the woman and better espy her

And find, once you’ve crossed the line of her clavicle,
And to get a better view, made a move tactical,
That the woman you admire in line ahead of you
Is one who has shared a marital bed with you.

You have to laugh, and confess the crime,
Though no one gave you the Miranda warning,
You won’t be sentenced to do hard time,
Your excuse is no coffee, it was early in the morning.
Of course your wife may be of two minds about this,
As you tell her the story once she gets a surprise kiss;

You were being naughty, and your eye had wandered,
Some domestic good will you have certainly squandered.
I possessed the mens rea, the criminal intent,
And I had no alibi, but an iron-clad defense:
“It wasn’t another woman I wanted to woo, dear,
My heart leapt up when I looked at you, dear.”

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.

Fran Landesman and the Sad Songs of Spring

“When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces,” wrote Swinburne, “The mother of months in meadow or plain/Fills the shadows and windy places/With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain”? And who are you or I to gainsay that sentiment, however loaded it may be with hissing sibilants and fricking frickatives?

But those lines, depicted tongue-in-cheek by James Thurber, give no hint of an answer to a more troubling question that arises this time of year: Why are the best of songs about spring–sad?


Swinburne: “Konked,” as Lou Rawls would say, “to the bone.”

 

It’s that time of year. In spring, we ought to be happy; winter is over, and spring, so long longed for, is here. Perhaps the much-awaited fulfillment of a fervent wish is bound to disappoint.

In spring, as e.e. cummings put it,

when the world is mud-
luscious the little lame baloonman whistles far and wee.

A “little lame balloon man”–pretty sad, if you ask me, but you didn’t.

When we sing of spring, we tend–unless we’re idiots humming “Here Comes Peter Cottontail”–to sing sadly.


Fran Landesman

Like “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most”–lyrics by Fran Landesman, music by Tommy Wolf.

It is the anti-spring song, one for those who once threw their hearts away each spring, but who now say a “spring romance hasn’t got a chance.”

Here is a fine version by Ella Fitzgerald. Landesman has the look of a woman for whom lines of regret such as

Spring this year has got me feeling
like a horse that never left the post.
I lie in my room staring up at the ceiling.
Spring can really hang you up the most

were more than an exercise in poesy; someone who was a lot of fun, but who may have waited for some calls that never came as men chose other leggier, prettier girls for–as Cleveland Amory said of a young man from Boston backed by a long-winded reference–breeding purposes. She was called “the Dorothy Parker of jazz,” and many assumed (including me) that she’d been disappointed in love because of her acerbic lyrics.


Ella Fitzgerald

 

That view, as it turns out, couldn’t have been more wrong. Landesman was happily married for six decades to her husband Jay, publisher of the beat journal Neurotica, and yet he allowed her a wide latitude in romantic affairs. While there’s no registry or clerk’s office in which to record extramarital acts and deeds, it is widely assumed that Landesman was a lover to, among others, both Jack Kerouac, whom she called the handsomest man she ever met, and Lenny Bruce, who proposed to her. “Let’s you and me go on the road,” Bruce wrote to her, “and send Jay a little money every month.”

She described her relationship with her husband in the poem “Semi-Detached”:

We each have a side that’s as free as the air,
And people don’t see the side that we share.
Our set-up is sweet. There isn’t a catch,
The secret is living semi-detached.

“Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” was a play on T.S. Eliot’s line “April is the cruellest month” from The Waste Land, and was apparently part of a high-brow self-deprecating trend among the beatniks to lampoon themselves by re-casting classics such as Shakespeare into hip argot. (Are today’s hipsters in Brooklyn or elsewhere doing anything similar–or even capable of it?) It was first performed, along with “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men,” in a musical developed from Jay’s unpublished novel about the beat scene in New York, “The Nervous Set.” The show was a huge success in St. Louis, but closed after three weeks when it moved to New York. A half-century later, though, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” is still being performed.

Happy or ecstatic as Landesman may have been with her love life, when she featured it in her work she tended to shine a melancholy light on it; she titled two collections of her poetry Scars and Stripes and How Was It for You? Freed from the convention of monogamy, she may have found pleasure but not necessarily fulfillment.

At the end of her life her sight failed, but she continued to perform her poetry–in a half spoken, half sung fashion all her own–from memory.

The woman who was sometimes called “the godmother of hip” died in July of 2011 at the age of 83, five months after her husband.