You resent all my fun,
Complain I’m a buffoon.
Let me play in the sun,
The dark comes all too soon.
Originally published with The Asses of Parnassus – always a good place for pithy poems.
Her thoughts were all inside her –
Free from reality –
Poor little cramped-up spider
Who never saw the sea.
Much though I love her insightful and often wicked little poems, and deeply though I sympathise with her for (as I have heard) the traumatic and embarrassing seizures that restricted her life, I still have difficulty with this specific Emily Dickinson poem:
I never saw a Moor —
I never saw the Sea —
Yet know I how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be.
I never spoke with God
Nor visited in Heaven —
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the Checks were given —
(There are two versions of this poem in circulation; but her poems were only edited and published after her death, and subsequently researched, de-edited and republished.) With all due respect, Miss Emily, if you had actually experienced the sea you would have realised that there is no way that a description and a couple of paintings can hope to capture the totality of waves: their warmth or chill, their taste, their sound, their movement against the body, the enjoyment, the danger, their feel in the water, their feel on a boat, their impact on a sandy beach or on a reef or against a cliff…
This also suggests to me that her understanding of God and Heaven is way too simplistic. She is making a good unwitting case for agnosticism. ‘White Recluse’ was published in The Asses of Parnassus, a suitable place for snippy little poems.
Spring sprang full force with sudden storms then stopped.
Of which vertu engendred were the floods. We mopped.
Summer so wet dried into humid dank.
Sweat dripped, dried, dripped, and as we worked we stank.
This little poem was published in The Asses of Parnassus, where poems range from the short to the very short. Epigrams translated from the Greek or Latin alternate with modern insults and with odd little observations such as this post’s verse. It is a site for people who enjoy the occasional small random thought.
Why I wrote the poem, I don’t know. It probably started with the evocative sounds of “spring sprang”. Spring rains always bring Chaucer’s Prologue to my mind, whence the “of which vertu engendred” phrase. The whole thing is inconsequential, except that in one very important sense no creative act, not even the most trivial, is inconsequential: your creativity speaks to you, and your decision of whether or not to act on it determines many aspects of your life: not just your creative output, but your sense of satsfaction, your happiness, your mental balance, even your physical health. When the muse speaks, listen and act – the output doesn’t have to be significant, but keeping the lines of communication open to the inner and unconscious (but in several ways wiser and more knowledgeable) parts of yourself is supremely important. Call it the soul, if you want. Call it God, for all I care. There is something essential there: honour it. Your happiness, maybe even your life, depends on it.
OK, rant over. Back to other inconsequentialities.
We’re only children, making castles in the sand.
Enjoy the day.
Night comes, and tides wash all away.
The northern summer is over. Snowy places have snow. Even in the Bahamas and Florida the water temperature is dropping below what locals will swim in (though it doesn’t bother tourists). The day ages towards dark. The year ages towards winter. And we age too. But we know this when we sign up for morning, for spring, for life–and we sign up for everything because there is so much joy, beauty, discovery and love to be experienced.
In Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories‘ one of my favourite passages is the beginning of the story, ‘The Crab That Played With The Sea’:
Before the High and Far-Off Times, O my Best Beloved, came the Time of the Very Beginnings; and that was in the days when the Eldest Magician was getting Things ready. First he got the Earth ready; then he got the Sea ready; and then he told all the Animals that they could come out and play. And the Animals said, ‘O Eldest Magician, what shall we play at?’ and he said, ‘I will show you.’ He took the Elephant—All-the-Elephant-there-was—and said, ‘Play at being an Elephant,’ and All-the-Elephant-there-was played. He took the Beaver—All-the-Beaver-there-was and said, ‘Play at being a Beaver,’ and All-the Beaver-there-was played. He took the Cow—All-the Cow-there-was—and said, ‘Play at being a Cow,’ and All-the-Cow-there-was played. He took the Turtle—All-the-Turtle there-was and said, ‘Play at being a Turtle,’ and All-the-Turtle-there-was played. One by one he took all the beasts and birds and fishes and told them what to play at.
To me this is one of the great secrets of happiness: Play! Play at being who you are, what you are. That includes all your dreams and aspirations, because they are part of who you are. So play at them, as part of playing at what is to be done today. Just play. Play at being yourself.
‘Sandcastles’ was originally published in The Asses of Parnassus, a Tumblr site of “short, witty, formal poems”. This poem isn’t particularly formal, but it has iambics and a rhyme… and it’s short.
Because my mind and life’s so active
my face has been reduced to rubble.
I’m glad I think I’m unattractive –
it helps to keep me from worse trouble.
The Asses of Parnassus published this as their Valentine’s Day post in 2018. Thanks, Brooke Clark!
As for the truth of the poem, who knows. Maybe it applies to all of us to some extent, as we age?
When sparkling springtime Doctor Young
And vernal Doctor Joy
Their arms, words, thoughts, widely outflung
The whole world was their toy.
But clottish schools their systems cloy
With death and dread and dung—
Oh miserable Doctor Joy!
Oh aged Doctor Young!
This little poem was originally published in The Asses of Parnassus, a string of occasional poems in Tumblr, focused on epigrams. “Short, witty, formal poems”, as editor Brooke Clark defines his search.
Jung & Freud is a frivolous piece, based on nothing more than trying to find flippant irony in the names of two of history’s best-known psychiatrists. It uses a bouncy little rhythm with lines of four feet followed by lines of three. The rhymes are simple, repetitive, reversed; the mirroring brings you back to where you started, but with everything reversed.
The fig leaf symbol’s one of History’s greats
As, inter alia,
It hides, discloses and exaggerates
The fruit itself suggests the female form —
Dripping with honey
The little hole breaks open, pink and warm . . .
The Bible’s funny.
First published in The Asses of Parnassus, this poem has just been republished in Better Than Starbucks, which earned a “Kudos on your brilliant ‘The Fig Tree'” from Melissa Balmain, editor of Light. That’s a trifecta of editorial acceptance – it makes me proud, and I have to erase my lingering suspicion that the poem would be thought too rude for publication. Now I rate the poem more highly, as being not just a personal favourite but also acceptable to a wider audience.
It sometimes feels that all I write is iambic pentameter. It is always reassuring when a poem presents itself with half the lines being something else, and the result is a lighter, less sonorous verse. The rhymes are good; the poem’s succinct and easy to memorise. I’m happy with it.
Despite my complaints yesterday about Haiku not being poetry, I can see a solution to the problem:
HAIKU ON HAIKU
Syllables are prime,
But words do more than count time;
Haiku should still rhyme.
This was originally published in Asses of Parnassus, 14 March 2018