A clever man was Edmund Clerihew
Bentley; a novelist, comedic gem,
And counted thus among the very few
Who have a type of poem named for them.
It started as a sort of schoolboy lark
To help recall a chemist’s famous deed,
And with that salty rhyme he made his mark,
And scribes like Auden soon followed his lead.
While tortured meter and a sense of fun
Make silly verses pointless to impeach,
Their aim is not just satire or to pun,
But rather fundamentally to teach.
So thank the clerihew if you recall
The architect who was behind St. Paul’s.
While sonnets have their devotees, too few
Respect the limerick as poetry,
While citing violations of taboo,
As if perdition came from childish glee.
Transgression, true, is in the poem’s soul,
To laugh at human idiosyncrasies,
And mock the powers seeking to control
Behavior and enforce morality.
And yet, when I take up my pen to write,
I can’t escape those lettered luminaries
Whose limericks both gladden and delight;
Sublimely silly, revolutionary.
Like Lear and Stoppard, see a trend and buck it,
Just like that cheeky fellow from Nantucket.
When one’s world starts to lose its clarity,
Corrective lenses often are assigned
So one perceives the world in verity,
Each leaf and pixel perfectly defined.
Alas, there are no spectacles for minds,
Nor any remedy for wayward thoughts
Through medication some their focus find,
And meditation can be learned and taught.
But when one chooses to remove the specs,
The world is filled with wonders, every light
Becomes a geometric form complex,
Like dandelions at seed in colors bright.
Distorted vision sometimes helps one see
The things that are as they’re supposed to be.
From ritual and dance that strove to hide
Identities from watchers’ ears and eyes,
Descended the kazoo, for years supplied
By parents in response to children’s cries.
But when that cheerful buzzing banishes
The woeful din, it substitutes a sound
At which all satisfaction vanishes;
Faust would admit the quandary profound.
But kitschy and obnoxious though it seems,
Its own diminished form it can transcend,
In concert context it is gaining steam,
Within a playful and nostalgic trend.
To thoughtful players, it presents a choice;
Of just how silly one should make one’s voice.
There must be something in our DNA
Or in our language roots or ABCs,
That make us love our shortcuts. MLA
Provides just one of many SOPs:
You needn’t spell out acronyms like RADAR-
Like SCUBA, it’s in common enough use.
Pronounce as words those entities like SPAWAR,
To find their meanings, check their FAQs.
With chatting slang, just shrug and LOL
Or say say that you were just now AFK;
You’re only ever truly SOL
When lacking context equals IDK.
And while such things will work for A/S/L,
ILU is much better IRL.
What one can do on any given day
Sometimes amazes, when reflected on,
But other times it brings profound dismay
To think of all the tasks one left undone.
Such days can lead to restless, fitful nights
In which the mind can’t be dissuaded from
Revisiting one’s slips and oversights;
Obsessively accounting what’s to come,
Until exhaustion settles on the brain,
And smothers all the nagging voices, yet
The ghosts of castigation will remain:
Disturbing dreams that one cannot forget.
Ironic that these worrying mistakes,
Are the result of being kept awake.
When working on a project of some length
We are advised to take it bit by bit,
To gently test endurance and one’s strength,
But living with the fear one might omit
A necessary passage or to find
That when a crucial section is rehearsed,
You find yourself in something of a bind
And panic, which makes one sound all the worse.
And thus, when your director says, “Let’s run
The piece straight through and see what needs some work,”
Then suddenly, rehearsal turns to fun,
Which feeds a new resolve to never shirk.
So when we sing vergangen ist die Nacht,
It feels as though gekommen ist der Tag.
The rules insist that when you drop your toast,
It lands with jelly side against the ground,
Unless, the cynic offers as riposte,
Through luck, it lands the other way around.
Because the inconvenience and the mess,
Delay the meal as one cleans off the rug,
Those vexing memories the mind impress;
Good fortune is forgotten with a shrug.
Exceptions frequently disprove the rule,
Yet we prefer the patterns of the bad,
So never let me be the kind of fool
Who misses all the things to make one glad.
But on some days, the good leaves one nonplussed,
Like when the dropped toast lands upon its crust.
Inspirations: this morning’s breakfast (yes, really); “Two Ships,” by Adam Gopnik. The New Yorker, 6 January 2014.
“Be happy!” said the parking lot. I was;
My lowered gaze, I thought, was not produced
By sadness, yet the painted words gave pause;
Had my own happiness become diffuse?
My first reaction was to laugh and scoff,
Because to optimism I’m inclined,
Yet thinking on the day, its crests and troughs,
The disappointments lingered in my mind.
But that poor lot, oppressed by countless tires,
Still had its cheerful wisdom to dispense,
In crudely painted letters, the desire
To give good cheer to those who wandered hence.
If it can smile despite the trash and shit
Perhaps there’s something to be learned from it.
A steaming robin’s egg with noodles filled,
With scallion green and ginger red bedecked,
And brown with brine, a treasure chest that spilled,
Whose rich surroundings with its gold are flecked.
Aside, the humble offering of pork
Infuses all the contents of the bowl.
One dare not denigrate it with a fork;
But gently nibbled, it will warm the soul.
I navigate the depths with sticks and spoon
Withdrawing golden tresses from within
And sipping them, I cannot help but croon,
Intense umami, yet as smooth as sin.
A sacrament to Pastafarians:
To that, I’ll raise my voice in sweet rAmens.