Short poem: ‘Bantering’

Bantering needs many, not one voice:
you need ‘response’ as well as ‘call’.
Or else it’s only masturbantering –
with no real intercourse at all.

*****

You make up a word, and then you have to use it… a short poem is one way to do it. This poem was first published in Rat’s Ass Review (as you might have guessed, if you know that no-holds-barred magazine). Thanks, Rick Bates!

Photo: “banter” by Andrew G Thomas is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Short poem: ‘Disappearance’

I’ve always been around, since before I can remember,
so it just would be so strange, if one day I should dismember,
and my body disappear, like a swallow in September…
Will there be no glowing coal? Of my life survive no ember?

*****

This short poem was published on a page of ‘Senior Moments’ in the current Lighten-Up Online. I like the rhythm (there’s a pause in the patter in the middle of each line) but the simile is bogus: unlike with swallow migration, dead people are unlikely to show up again the next spring…

Photo: “Swallows” by Marie Hale is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Short poem: ‘Land of the Free’

Homicide, suicide, what’s it to me?
We all carry guns in the Land of the Free.
Free to be Christians and free to be whites –
The rest ain’t included in our Bill of Rights.
The rest want to come here (or blow us sky high),
They get smuggled in, so they cheat, steal and lie.
Servants and slaves since the US begun:
Tell ’em: Sit! and shut up! and don’t carry no gun!

*****

This short poem was published minutes ago in the Allegro Poetry Journal, put out by Sally Long in the UK. The spring edition is always unthemed, the autumn edition themed; and this time the theme is ‘Freedom’ – a word which means many things to many people.

Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ Rally” by Anthony Crider is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Semi-formal poem: ‘Thin Thin Skin’

Life on the earth is thin as dust on an apple.
25,000 miles round the planet, and if we go 2 miles high
we struggle to breathe, claw at the air, fight it, grapple.
25,000 miles round the planet, mostly sea
and if sea levels rise a foot, whole communities are lost
and if a storm gives 10 foot waves, houses and lives are lost.
We live on the thin thin skin of the earth.
Is the soil three inches deep, or a foot, or five?
Can we grow enough to survive?
We live on that thin thin skin of dirt.
And people too are fragile, their bones, organs, held in
by their thin thin skin. A knife,
a bullet, even too much sun,
will break the thin thin skin and drain the life.
And society too is fragile, with too many knives and guns,
too little respect for sun, ocean, climate change;
too many people with a thin thin skin
leading their ignorant people into the razorwire of unpredicted change.

*****

This poem was originally published in Lighten-Up Online (or LUPO) last year – thanks, Jerome Betts! It’s not really a formal poem, though there are some rhymes. As for the subject matter, all I can say is: If you haven’t run across the delightful XKCD graphic of the past 12,000 years of temperature change, please click here!

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages: A middle school science teacher explains a lesson on climate change using a SMART board. Copyright CC BY-NC 4.0

Clerihew: ‘Robert Bridges’

Robert Bridges
was way too religious.
He rhymed like mad for his God,
but his knowledge of Science was flawed.

*****

This clerihew was recently published in The Asses of Parnassus. Regarding the form, Wikipedia says it best: “A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem of a type invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem’s subject, usually a famous person, and the remainder puts the subject in an absurd light or reveals something unknown or spurious about the subject. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced. The line length and metre are irregular. Bentley invented the clerihew in school and then popularized it in books.”

As for the subject, Bridges had a lifelong drive for nature, religion and poetry; he produced hymns like “When morning fills the skies”, launched Gerard Manley Hopkins by bringing out a posthumous collection of his poems, and became Poet Laureate. But his poetic style was, like the phonetic alphabet he developed, idiosyncratic and anachronistic; definitely interesting, but not that successful.

It’s not surprising that he is little known. He’s an acquired taste, and even then you have to be in the right mood.

Short Poem: ‘Darkness’

I miss the dark.
Nights pitchblack as pitch in the seams of the planks of boats on a starlit sea
when you walk in a garden
with hands out in front in case you walk into a tree.
Moonless nights
where stars let you grope over rocks at the beach with blind eye –
and then the moon rises
like the sunlit reflecting rock that it is. Then you can see. Can see why.
Why I miss the dark.

*****

This poem was originally published in Snakeskin. It seems to have a structure, i.e. it isn’t completely formless. Perhaps it needs more work. But it’s very much like the rural moonless nights where I was brought up, and where I have returned. I stumble around happily in many aspects of life.

A Forest / At Night (The Cure photographic cover)” by Max Sat is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Potcake Poet’s Choice: Michael R. Burch, ‘The People Loved What They Had Loved Before’

We did not worship at the shrine of tears;
we knew not to believe, not to confess.
And so, ahemming victors, to false cheers,
we wrote off love, we gave a stern address
to bards whose methods irked us, greats of yore.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We did not build stone monuments to stand
six hundred years and grow more strong and arch
like bridges from the people to the Land
beyond their reach. Instead, we played a march,
pale Neros, sparking flames from door to door.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We could not pipe of cheer, or even woe.
We played a minor air of Ire (in E).
The sheep chose to ignore us, even though,
long destitute, we plied our songs for free.
We wrote, rewrote and warbled one same score.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

At last outlandish wailing, we confess,
ensued, because no listeners were left.
We built a shrine to tears: our goddess less
divine than man, and, like us, long bereft.
We stooped to love too late, too Learned to whore.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

*****

Michael R. Burch writes: “If I remember correctly, the poem was written after I read some disparaging comments by Formalists about Keats and Shelley being ‘too emotional.’ In the poem I make fun of the naysayers by pointing out how they now wail about a lack of attention from readers. I was also told by poets on Eratosphere – I call it ErraticSphere – not to use the word ‘love’ in a love poem and to avoid abstractions and personification. Such wisdom! When I pointed out that Erato was the abstract personification of love poetry, I was banned for life! So I worked that into the poem: ‘We wrote off love.’ One might think the wailing poets are free versers, but the inspiration for the poem was actually Formalists who object to abstract language, personifications and even the word ‘love’ in modern poetry.”

Michael R. Burch is an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth and two outrageously spoiled puppies. Burch’s poems, translations, essays, articles, reviews, short stories, epigrams, quotes, puns, jokes and letters have appeared more than 7,000 times in publications which include TIME, USA Today, The Hindu, BBC Radio 3, CNN.com, Daily Kos, The Washington Post and hundreds of literary journals, websites and blogs. Burch is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The HyperTexts, a former columnist for the Nashville City Paper, and, according to Google’s rankings, a relevant online publisher of poems about the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears, Darfur, Gaza and the Palestinian Nakba. Burch’s poetry has been taught in high schools and universities, translated into fifteen languages, incorporated into three plays and two operas, set to music by twenty composers, recited or otherwise employed in more than forty YouTube videos, and used to provide book titles to two other authors. To read the best poems of Mike Burch in his own opinion, with his comments, please click here: Michael R. Burch Best Poems.

Photo: “Folk Band” by garryknight is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Irregular Sonnet: ‘Where Do They Go?’

Where do they go, those children asleep?
Do they roost, or do angels put them on shelves?
Or do they go home, to some place they keep
locked far away from us and themselves,
Or an alternate universe? In, out, up, down?
Into a not-place, past care and past fear?
Past love and past tired, past smile, yawn and frown
into subtracted space, full of not here?

And where do they go, the dead?
We say we can’t know where they go,
just that they’re gone. But the crow
says, There is more to know that you don’t know –
says, Better ask instead
where do we go, when dead?

*****

This almost-regular sonnet was originally published in Bewildering Stories (thanks Don Webb). I thought it might be nice to emphasise (after some of irreligious poems) that I am not an atheist (except in the eyes of the organisedly religious). I am a Militant Agnostic: “I don’t know, and neither do you.”

Photo: “Good sleeping children in the morning” by michibanban is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Short poem: ‘Ghost Tales’

Discounting tales of ghosts kids say appeared,
We teach them to be rational instead.

Jesus was scourged, then crucified, then speared…
You really think he came back from the dead?

*****

This poem was originally accepted for November 2016 publication in Quarterday, a Scottish quarterly that appeared in print and online for a few issues. There were some discrepancies with publication, and I never determined whether this poem made it into either format. The ambiguity is quite in keeping with all reports of ghosts, so I’m not complaining.

(But perhaps I should have blogged this at Easter.)

Photo: Ghosts by goldberg from Openverse

My own favourites: ‘No No Nse Nse’

No
No
Nse
Nse
And things like that
May look like nonsense
But there is
No
No
Nse
Nse

*****

I know, I know… it’s not formal verse, but it’s one of my favourite pieces.

Ecstatic Posture” by Dreaming in the deep south is licensed under CC BY 2.0.