Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

The Whatifs and Other Monsters Under the Bed

The other night while I was lying awake worrying about something that I can no longer even remember, I came to notice my daughter lying on the floor beside the bed (a frightening shadowy apparition in itself until you learn to expect such behavior).  Eventually she presumably found the uncarpeted floor less hospitable than her own bed and returned there.

The next day I asked her why she was there and I got the standard kid answer for such nighttime behaviors: because of “Monsters under the Bed.”

I then wondered what I in the heck I was doing up at that time myself and realized it was pretty much the same thing: going to some cold, hard, dark place and worrying about my own “Monsters under the Bed.”  Those both irrational and rational fears we have when the din of the outside world quiets and we are left alone with our own unique thoughts and concerns.

This is a time and mood captured perfectly by the Shel Silverstein poem Whatif:

Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song…

…Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!

Shel and I just need to keep telling ourselves: those nighttime Whatifs and Monsters under the Bed aren’t real, they’re just illusions of our overactive imaginations and worst fears.  Even our most rational fears only very seldom come to pass and as wittily told in Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen):

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday

So go back to your own bed.  Turn on a flashlight or shine some hope and optimism into your worried mind and let those Whatifs and Monsters under the Bed fade away and melt back into the shadows.  4PM on some idle Tuesday will no doubt come soon enough, so for now appreciate and be grateful for the day you just had and look forward to and be hopeful for those yet to come.

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Cindy Sheehan is Lydia Puckett

Pro Patria Mori

Pro Patria Mori

Cindy Sheehan is one of those controversial, polarizing, and annoying public figures that you are either “for ’em or again’ ’em.” 

I certainly fall into the latter category.  I could forgive her many wacky misstatements, using her son’s death in order to become a media darling, and her false claims to retire from public life and then running for congress after just 1 month of missing the media spotlight. 

But the one act I consider unforgivable is the act of claiming to speak for the dead, war dead in particular.  I just think these dead have already paid the ultimate sacrifice and deserve to be left in peace and no longer used as pawns in someone else’s ideological battles.   

In Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, Lydia Puckett does this for Knowlt Hoheimer.  She falsely claims a spot for herself, no matter how far removed, in history.  When in fact she is nothing, she made no sacrifice, and certainly has absolutely no right to speak for the war dead:

Lydia Puckett

KNOWLT HOHEIMER ran away to the war
The day before Curl Trenary
Swore out a warrant through Justice Arnett
For stealing hogs.
But that’s not the reason he turned a soldier.
He caught me running with Lucius Atherton.
We quarreled and I told him never again
To cross my path.
Then he stole the hogs and went to the war-
Back of every soldier is a woman.

Given the chance to speak for himself, Knowlt Hoheimer makes one of the most powerful statements in all of literature about war:

Knowlt Hoheimer

I WAS the first fruits of the battle of Missionary Ridge.
When I felt the bullet enter my heart
I wished I had staid at home and gone to jail
For stealing the hogs of Curl Trenary,
Instead of running away and joining the army.
Rather a thousand times the country jail
Than to lie under this marble figure with wings,
And this granite pedestal
Bearing the words, “Pro Patria.”
What do they mean, anyway?

So leave Knowlt Hoheimer and Casey Sheehan alone.  Let their courageous acts and supreme sacrifices speak for themselves – and for goodness sakes, Lydia Puckett and Cindy Sheehan, please shut up!

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2008

William Burroughs Heart

In Honor of William S. Burroughs

For Al Bundy
In hopes he is still on the couch

Thanks for the candy hearts and Hallmark cards, destined to be perfunctorily purchased –

thanks for an Expression to despoil and poison –

thanks for FTD florists to provide an escape from neglectful guilt –

thanks for St. Valentine and the Martyrs, to forget their lives and meaning –

thanks for a mandatory dinner at Applebee’s or Red Lobster –

thanks for the idea of TRUE LOVE to commoditize and sell until it stimulates the economy –

thanks for the MPAA, for judges who forget the First Amendment, for prudish soccer moms incensed about Janet Jackson’s breast –

thanks for “I (Heart) My Dog” bumper stickers –

thanks for dove-patterned bulk tableware –

thanks for “two months salary” and Diamond Eternity Rings –

thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to think on their own –

thanks for a nation of consumers – yes,

thanks for all the memories… all right, let’s see your credit cards… you always were a simple tender heart –

thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human emotions.
 

Best Poems for the Dilettante and Philistine Masses

I like poetry.  Even though I cannot tell the difference between iambic pentameter and a centimeter or a Sonnet and Sonogram, I still think there is poetry that can be appreciated by even those of us who do not possess Literature degrees.

The fact that I ever read a line of poetry at all in High School English classes is certainly a argument in favor or diverse and well-rounded school curriculae because it is certainly not something I would have sought on my own.

My favorite poems are ones in which remembering a single line can make you recall the tone, texture, and richness of the entire poem.  Here are a few examples and some of my favorites along with their most memorable lines:

“When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.” – The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, R. J. Randall

“And miles to go before I sleep.” –  Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

“nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands” – somewhere i have never travelled, e.e.cummings

“how do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death” – Buffalo Bill’s defunct, e.e.cummings

“I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”
– The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Elliot

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
Richard Cory, Edwin Arlington Robinson 

And of course no list of memorable poems and poetry lines would be complete without…

“Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickenson

…Which I can never remember without also remembering Woody Allens comedic retort in the book Getting Even: “How wrong Emily Dickinson was! Hope is not the ‘thing with feathers.’ The thing with feathers has turned out be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich.”