Category Archives: short poems

Short poem: ‘Punster’

The artist said the wit
was “full of it”,
disparaged him.
The punster tore the painter limn from limn.

*****

Apparently some people believe that puns are “the lowest form of humour”, but I would suggest that those people are not good at wordplay, and therefore have no poetic sensibility. Look to Homer, Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson for puns; enjoy more discussion and examples here.

This short poem was published in The Asses of Parnassus, home of “short, witty, formal poems”. Thanks, Brooke Clark!

Photo: “punster” by danbruell is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Pino Coluccio, ‘Class Clown’

They’d all be like, never say never
in classes we had, but whatever.
I turned to the windows and hallways
that always said always say always.

*****

Editor’s comments: From Pino Coluccio you should expect light and dark combined, light but deep, usually short, always well-phrased… and always existential. This, the eponymous piece of his 2017 collection, is tucked away in the middle of the book. The book won a Trillium Award, putting Coluccio in the company of Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Alice Munro. He has given me permission to republish more of his pieces from Class Clown periodically.

Pino Coluccio lives in Toronto.

Short poem: ‘Poetic Tours de Force’

We aim to sing
Boldly as the brave acrobat on his thin string
Across the air.
But yet, no matter how we juggle words and dare,
And think ourselves stupendous,
We’re risking nothing… we’re no Flying Wallendas.

*****

The Seven-Person Pyramid, the creation of Karl Wallenda, cost a couple of the acrobats their lives in 1962. https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/2012/06/10/wallendas-history-one-of-greatness-and-tragedy/29102856007/ Poetry may also try for spectacular effects, but without the inherent dangers of the highwire. Poets are more likely to risk their lives through their livers than anything else.

This short poem was just published in Lighten Up Online (thanks, Jerome Betts!)

Short poem: ‘Death Spiral’

We spiral round the sun, like water
spirals round a drain;
herded like sheep to the slaughter,
it’s an old refrain–
what you coulda, what you oughta…
so few years remain.

*****

This short poem was recently published in The Asses of Parnassus – thanks, Brooke Clark! Btw sorry if the poem seems morbid – fall/winter has always made me reflective; I’ve been feeling time running out since my teens.

File:Pool drain vortex as viewed from above the water at Grange Park wading pool.jpg” by Glogger at English Wikipedia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Susan McLean, ‘Out-of-Town Conference Texts’

He:      Met with a colleague for cocktails.  Last night is a blur.
            Having a wonderful time.  Wish you were her.

She:     I’ve been tidying up and arranging while you’ve been gone.
            When you want to retrieve your things, they’re out on the lawn.

*****

These two couplets by Susan McLean were recently published in The Asses of Parnassus; she comments: “I got the idea for this poem by misreading a line in a poem by Amit Majmudar.  It is not the first time I have gotten an idea for a line by misreading or mishearing something: aging has its unforeseen benefits.  The line was the standard phrase from postcards, “Wish you were here,” which I misread as “wish you were her.”  I immediately saw the comic potential of that phrase, and at first I thought of the exchange as written on postcards. But then I realized that conferences are often short, making sending a postcard impractical, and that no one tends to send postcards anymore.  So I reconceived the poem as texts–which also have to leave a lot unsaid because of their length.  I left open the question of whether “her” was an accidental typo or a deliberate choice.”

Susan McLean has two books of poetry, The Best Disguise and The Whetstone Misses the Knife, and one book of translations of Martial, Selected Epigrams. Her poems have appeared in Light, Lighten Up Online, Measure, Able Muse, and elsewhere. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.
https://www.pw.org/content/susan_mclean

Photo: “Business Affairs” by edwicks_toybox is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Jerome Betts, ‘Grim Harvester’

Two walkers once, who left the path
With fleeting union in mind,
Were reaped – oh, tragic aftermath! –
And permanently here combined.

*****

Jerome Betts is the Featured Poet in the current issue of Light. I was glad to provide an introduction to the man and his poetry in that magazine’s Spotlight – the short poem I’ve quoted above is a personal favourite: it is a tight, well-structured play on the ‘grim reaper’ and the ‘combine harvester’.

He lives in Devon, England, where he edits the quarterly Lighten Up Online. Pushcart-nominated twice, his verse has appeared in a wide variety of UK publications and in anthologies such as Love Affairs At The Villa NelleLimerick Nation, The Potcake Chapbooks 1, 2 and 12, and Beth Houston’s three Extreme collections. British, European, and North American web venues include Amsterdam QuarterlyBetter Than StarbucksLightThe Asses of ParnassusThe HypertextsThe New Verse News, and  Snakeskin.

Photo: “Combine Harvester (Deutz-Faher TopLiner 4090 HTS) – at work at Moyvalley, Co. Kildare, Ireland. September 1st 2011” by Peter Mooney is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Short poem: ‘Thoughts Pop’

Thoughts pop in your head…
should you say them or not?
There’s a lot to be said
for not saying a lot.

*****

This little poem goes very nicely with another short one, ‘Rainbow‘. They were published together in Light this month.

thought” by freshphoto is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Short poem: ‘Rainbow’

God made the rainbow as a sign
for post-Flood men to see.
The sign says, “I am Merciful–
and you better fucking agree.”

*****

According to the Book of Genesis, after God flooded the entire world He told the one surviving family: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.”

There are so many things to love in all this: the Noah’s Ark story, and the toys of it that delight children; the beauty of rainbows themselves; the alternative explanation that Irish leprechauns make rainbows to mark where they bury their gold; the Biblical suggestion that water droplets didn’t cause refraction of light before the Flood; the calculation that rain, to have flooded Mount Everest in 40 days, must have fallen at 29 feet per hour for that entire time… and above all the idea that God needed the rainbow to remind Him not to kill everyone whenever He gets angry.

But hey – rainbows are beautiful, at least we can all agree on that.

This poem was published in the most recent issue of Light.

Noah’s Ark” by Svadilfari is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Short poem: ‘North American Fall’

The red leaves in the sunshine are
So red! So red! So red!
There are no buried Caesars here – instead,
The dispossessed of all the Earth,
With native wisdoms, human worth,
Bleed through the trees like a reopened scar.

*****

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving; in the US, Columbus Day; in the Bahamas, National Heroes Day; in all of them “aka Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. Yes, we’re all here, across the Atlantic or the Pacific from where we or our ancestors came. Yes, there are things to be thankful for, and things to regret. But that’s the story of modern humans, walking out of Africa for the past 200,000 years, and of earlier versions walking out of Africa for the previous couple of million years.

Reparations for everything done to each other is impossible… will the Italians pay reparations to the British for 300 years of occupation and slavery? (Not that the reparations would be paid to the English, who didn’t show up until after the Romans left; payment would be to the people the English pushed out: the Welsh, Cornish, some Irish and maybe some Scots…) People have been invading and massacring, invading and enslaving, invading and intermarrying, in all parts of the world since forever.

What would be reasonable would be for all governments to grant all citizens good quality universal education and good quality universal health care at least for the first 20 years of life. Reparations to the dead may be impossible, but giving everyone a decent chance going forward would seem appropriate. And it would be in the interests of everyone who would like a healthy, well-educated society in which to live.

Fall Colors at Lake Sabrina in the Eatsern Sierra” by RS2Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Short poem: ‘When Your Flesh Freshly’

When your flesh freshly and your face flushly
Face the imperatives of flesh,
I find your mind now unleashed lusty-lushly…
Must we not then enmesh?

*****

This little poem was triggered by pondering the nearness to each other of the words fresh, flesh and flush, and jamming them all together. The result was coherent enough for publication in (naturally) ‘Rat’s Ass Review‘ – thanks, Rick Bates!

Photo: “The Redhead Piano Bar” by Thomas Hawk is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.