Category Archives: Poetic license


The penguin, being black on white
(or white on black, as you prefer)
elicits our naive delight
in feathered formal dress (as fur
on skunks: New England white-on-black,
contrariwise on Erie’s shore)
while quaintly bobbing front to back
and side to side, at two foot four.

By contrast, Jeeves at six foot plus
(as smoothly played by Stephen Fry)
seems scarcely risible to us
save as he saves, by ruses sly,
young Wooster, who’s supremely dim
(burlesquing England’s upper class)
from floundering: Penguins deftly swim;
not so Wodehouse’s urban ass.

Had I a valet, I might wish
for Jeeves, urbane in suave attire
(unlike those birds, who smell of fish,
and live on ice), to stoke my fire,
see to my garments, brew my tea,
bring me my mail, and make my bed –
for want of whom, I’m off to sea
to seek the penguins out instead.



My friend says she can’t understand why Midwesterners hate trees,
cutting down the twenty-year spruce, the century oak
or, failing that, to unlimb them, like the Melos Aphrodite.

My wife is likewise vehement on the subject.
Our municipal electric company hacks away branches
anywhere close to their wires, with all the abandon
of reckless hormone-inflamed teenagers at drive-ins.
Bugs infest open scars, hastening the process:
First leaves wither, then woodpeckers riddle, then deadfalls.

Is it our trans-Alleghenian cultural memory,
our forebears fearful of Red Men resentfully watching
hidden by pampas grass and that forest primeval?
Or is our haunted sleep tormented by nightmares
peopled by fur-bearing predators—feral dusk-stalkers,
bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, sharp-toothed, merciless of claw?

Here in our tracts suburban, our lawns blare daytime
fanfares to civilized sightlines. But over the back fence,
trickster Coyote still howls by night in the dark woods.

Poem Challenge II

Some jolly nonsense on a fine fall afternoon.


I left my gazebo
for downtown Toledo;
the sun having set,
the moon pale as a moth
Old King Nectanebo
once saw its albedo
through birdcatchers’ net
raised by signals from Thoth
(about which the reader
may read, if he’s eager
in Schwaller de Lubitsch,
The Temple of Man).
Carl Larsson was Sweder
but Edvard was Grieger,
while Rubik was cubish.
(One does what one can.)

If zebras were ponies
and beggars wore posies
then moonlight would shimmer
o’er seagirt Nahant.
while literate phonies
(Illusion des Sosies!)
by Doppeln gang immer
(in English I can’t
make good on the stanza
with rhymes that are valid)
on strands that are sandy
(I think that will square)
as in a romanza
in earthshine that’s pallid.
Gazebos are handy
at such times.   So there.

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.”