Tag Archives: The Lyric

Potcake Poet’s Choice: Paula Mahon, ‘Driven to the Mall in December’

I must go back to the mall again for the holidays are nigh
and all I ask is a parking space with direction posts nearby
in a covered lot, or a shoveled spot with room for a Chevy van.
There are two more days till the 25th and I have no Christmas plan.

I must go down to the mall again for the lure of the discount sale.
There’s just empty space ‘neath my Christmas tree, and I simply cannot fail.
And all I ask is some helpful clerk and ample stock for buying.
If there’s nothing left or the cost too dear, there will be a lot of crying.

I must go back to the mall again for the twinkling Christmas lights
that bedeck the trees and storefront shows of holiday delights.
I have had it with the crowds and lines, I’m no happy shopping rover
I can’t wait till the 26th when the holidays are over.

Paula Mahon writes: “I have just the timely thing for your blog… a holiday parody poem of John Masefield’s Sea-Fever.  This was originally published in Light.”

Paula Mahon is a practicing family physician and medical director of Health Care for Homeless in Manchester, NH. Her essays, poems and stories have been published in the Boston Globe, Light, The Lyric, The Road Not Taken, Pulse and the Potcake Chapbook ‘Strip Down – poems of modern life‘; she won The Lyric’s 2020 New England Prize for a poem called Two Points of View. She is married to Robert d’Entremont and mother to a son, Raymond, adopted from Kazakhstan.

Poem: ‘Dreams’

In the back alleys of our nightly dreams-–
Where cartoon murders repay debts of grudge,
And all’s not graspable nor as it seems,
And logic leers, then sneers and disappears,
And our warped lusts of power, sex and pain
Live stray cat lives, are killed, and live again
To yowl and fight, to scavenge, hunt, give birth-–
We overlay fresh civilized veneers
On age-old dynamos of massive girth.
So the thin skin of life upon the Earth
Cannot restrain the molten mass beneath
(Driving relentless change despite crust’s sheath),
Till, trampled and forgotten in the sludge,
Our empires are mere broken plastic toys.
Dreams run from us like cats from evil boys.

Dreams, the unconscious, one’s Muse… cats, ravens, the Earth… time and timelessness, change and continuty… so many of these ideas return again and again, always the same, always differently organised, a true kaleidoscope. And this isn’t a sonnet–too many lines, no pattern to the rhymes–even if it sort of feels like one; it’s more of a kaleidoscope itself.

This poem was first published in The Lyric. As far as I remember, its editor wanted the removal of the word “on” from the ninth line; they thought this improved the scansion, and the editor is always right so I allowed it. But I’ve put it back now, anyway.

“My cat running away from the camera #cat #iphone #cats” by gargudojr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Poem: “On Rousseau’s Dream”

Rousseau, The Dream

Henri Rousseau, “The Dream”

I will be a flutist
standing in the trees
with the lions and tigers
stalking past my knees;

you, my naked lady
languid on a couch –
is the tiger standing,
or is it in a crouch?

Enormous tropic blossoms
open in the heat;
your hand is out toward me,
the pipe I play is sweet.

You have no need to answer
if things are as they seem.
The scene will last forever,
A moment, and a dream.

Henri Rousseau’s 1910 painting, The Dream, is one of his jungle-themed paintings, and hangs in one of the world’s greatest museums, MoMA, New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It is very powerful seeing the original – for one thing, it’s big – 2 x 3 metres. But my immediate inspiration for the poem was the Chaleur coffee mug of the painting – the colours are brighter (or they were, until I put the mug through the dishwasher too many times), and the flute player is more prominent.  

Technically the poem is… well, ekphrastic, because it’s about a painting, or at least a coffee mug. First published in The Lyric, it is a simple poem; perhaps colloquially you could say it is in hymn format. Regular quatrains. Three iambic beats to the line, with an extra syllable on the first and third line of each quartet. Just like

“From Greenland’s icy mountains
To India’s coral strand…”

But unlike a lot of hymns, only rhyming the 2nd and 4th lines. That’s just me being lazy. The painting itself is far better (of course!). My poem doesn’t even mention the elephant, trumpeting away in the foliage…

New Poem: “My Eliza”

The latest issue of The Lyric is out – although I won’t get my copy for weeks or months yet, depending on the Bahamas Post Office’s mood and inclination – and apparently “My Eliza” has been awarded the Leslie Mellichamp Prize (with $100, no less!). Judge Michael Ferris wrote: “A smart and charming love poem with island images (I learned some new words) that finishes on the striking picture of two sea otters drifting hand in hand.” Of course I’m delighted! So here it is:

My Eliza

As through Canada I wandered,
Winters cold and summers cool,
Companionship precipitated
Out a girl wild, beautiful.

Come, she said, share games and reading,
Come and play and let’s share beds;
Let’s move south for warmth and business,
Raise our children, use our heads.

Eliza with the hair like lightning,
Hair like ragged moonlit clouds,
Like a cloud of wild mosquitoes,
Junkanoo’s drunk noisy crowds.

Sexy, vital, dogged, honest,
Game designer, engineer,
Eliza: genius aphantasic,
A no-see-um who sees clear.

Now like two strays by the roadside,
Like two potcakes on the beach,
She and I will scrap and forage,
Take the treasures in our reach,

Clean up beaches, plant some flowers,
Read all books and plan things grand,
Roam through cities and through seascapes,
Drift like otters hand in hand.

Sea_otters_holding_hands

Sea Otters holding hands