Monthly Archives: August 2010

Poem Challenges I

My old cyberpal David Graham at Ripon U. recently threw down a gantlet as follows: Write a poem that (a) is entirely in one-syllable words and at least 14 lines long, (b) is in classic ballad form, (c) has something in it about a tattoo, and/or (d) is connected with the exercise of sitting and just looking at a body of water.

Here is a shot at it:

Coal Ridge Reed Ducks
(The Gate Sit Song)

It was an old and grey haired tar
Who stopped in front of me.
I asked him, “Tell me who you are.”
He said, “I am the sea.”

I asked, “The part stands for the whole?”
He smiled. “You might say so.
I sail the sea, and this my goal:
Where it goes, I shall go.”

“So what,” I pressed him, “in your spare
Time do you find to do?”
“I sit and braid my long grey hair;
I knit, and I tat, too.”

I did not learn his name, and he
In time went on his way;
But I still sit, and watch the sea
From dawn to dusk each day.

O you who read, now learn from me:
Vain is such verse, by gosh;
Gone is that tar, for as you see
All comes out in the wash.

Fall Cleaning

Expect, when I’m seventy, a frenzy of throwing things out,
for then I’ll presumably know (as best one can know
from a lifetime’s accumulated wisdom, or at least what
passes), that no poor graduate student will go
rootling through my files to squeeze out a dissertation
for a doctorate, a tenure-track job at a small state college,
getting cited (assuming his thesis garners publication
by a comparatively respectable scholarly press)
in other people’s footnotes, thus advancing all knowledge
three butterfly steps.           And here’s the lyric turn:
“What’s all this piffle, in the dance of eternity? Less
is notoriously more!” (Sing it out, every minimalist!)
“There ain’t no storage units in Jerusalem the Blest!”

The shredder beckons. The stove replies, “I burn.”