June 20, 2009

Poem For The Rooftops Of Iran

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April 18, 2008

Bonus Friday Science Poem

Here's a poem, which purports to explain Schrödinger's conjecture. It's by Cecil Adams, a long time idol of mine, in response to a poem by one of his interlocutors. This post itself was inspired by Stewy.

Schroedinger, Erwin! Professor of physics!
Wrote daring equations! Confounded his critics!
(Not bad, eh? Don't worry. This part of the verse
Starts off pretty good, but it gets a lot worse.)
Win saw that the theory that Newton'd invented
By Einstein's discov'ries had been badly dented.
What now? wailed his colleagues. Said Erwin, "Don't panic,
No grease monkey I, but a quantum mechanic.
Consider electrons. Now, these teeny articles
Are sometimes like waves, and then sometimes like particles.
If that's not confusing, the nuclear dance
Of electrons and suchlike is governed by chance!
No sweat, though--my theory permits us to judge
Where some of 'em is and the rest of 'em was."
Not everyone bought this. It threatened to wreck
The comforting linkage of cause and effect.
E'en Einstein had doubts, and so Schroedinger tried
To tell him what quantum mechanics implied.
Said Win to Al, "Brother, suppose we've a cat,
And inside a tube we have put that cat at--
Along with a solitaire deck and some Fritos,
A bottle of Night Train, a couple mosquitoes
(Or something else rhyming) and, oh, if you got 'em,
One vial prussic acid, one decaying ottom
Or atom--whatever--but when it emits,
A trigger device blasts the vial into bits
Which snuffs our poor kitty. The odds of this crime
Are 50 to 50 per hour each time.
The cylinder's sealed. The hour's passed away. Is
Our pussy still purring--or pushing up daisies?
Now, you'd say the cat either lives or it don't
But quantum mechanics is stubborn and won't.
Statistically speaking, the cat (goes the joke),
Is half a cat breathing and half a cat croaked.
To some this may seem a ridiculous split,
But quantum mechanics must answer, "Tough @#&!
We may not know much, but one thing's fo' sho':
There's things in the cosmos that we cannot know.
Shine light on electrons--you'll cause them to swerve.
The act of observing disturbs the observed--
Which ruins your test. But then if there's no testing
To see if a particle's moving or resting
Why try to conjecture? Pure useless endeavor!
We know probability--certainty, never.'
The effect of this notion? I very much fear
'Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear.
Till soon the cat doctors will say in reports,
"We've just flipped a coin and we've learned he's a corpse."'
So saith Herr Erwin. Quoth Albert, "You're nuts.
God doesn't play dice with the universe, putz.
I'll prove it!" he said, and the Lord knows he tried--
In vain--until fin'ly he more or less died.
Win spoke at the funeral: "Listen, dear friends,
Sweet Al was my buddy. I must make amends.
Though he doubted my theory, I'll say of this saint:
Ten-to-one he's in heaven--but five bucks says he ain't."

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May 16, 2007

"Eyes look your last..."

No one says good-bye like Shakespeare.

Why art thou yet so fair? shall I believe
That unsubstantial death is amorous,
And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
Thee here in dark to be his paramour?
For fear of that, I still will stay with thee;
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again: here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chamber-maids; O, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!
Here's to my love!

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March 07, 2007

Wednesday Is Poetry Day

I thought this one was interesting. I was looking for poems about hamburgers, because I just ate one.

Burger King

by Henry Burt Stevens

"At Burger King, Midday Sunday, Ft Myers, Florida"

Moving slowly not
to spoil their raiment

moving calmly
still otherworldly,

they do not see any of us
white, brown, or black

sitting with our families
eating burgers and fries,

though they smile gently
to one another.

We know who we are
and why we are not seen.

If it happens while
we're all together

we'll see them taken up
leaving us behind

but for now the saved
have joined with us for lunch.

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February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day is Poetry Day: Shakespeare

A simple and beautiful sonnet, expressing love using some of the simplest words in the English language. Only Shakespeare could have written this poem.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

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February 07, 2007

Wednesday is Poetry to Kick Ass By Day: Robert Burns

My beloved Caps are in a slump. Tonight they were listless and slow, and lost in a shootout to a shitty team...again. Clearly, they need some poetry to stir their blood, and who better to do it than Robert Burns?

Besides, annika and I both missed his birthday last month...January 25.

Robert Bruce's March To Bannockburn (1793)

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to Victorie!

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour;
See approach proud Edward's power-
Chains and Slaverie!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a Slave?
Let him turn and flee!

Wha, for Scotland's King and Law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Free-man stand, or Free-man fa',
Let him on wi' me!

By Oppression's woes and pains!
By your Sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud Usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!-
Let us Do or Die!

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February 02, 2007

Ground Hog Day Haiku

phil says early spring
biden says obama's clean
long live barbaro

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January 31, 2007

Wednesday is Bad Poetry Day: Fly Guy

An original composition, by Fly Guy. Freak y'all, into the beat y'all.

A hat tip to some blonde chick.

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January 24, 2007

Wednesday is Poetry Day: Sharon Olds

Reading a Sharon Olds poem is like drinking a very fine brandy. It'll go down like pink lemonaide, then knock you on your butt when you don't expect it. I once mentioned Sharon Olds to a poet friend, and she remarked Ms. Olds, "...doesn't waste a word." Nope, not a bit, even when most of them are given to her. In The Father, Ms. Olds learned something new about her father.

His Stillness

The doctor said to my father, “You asked me
to tell you when nothing more could be done.
That’s what I’m telling you now.” My father
sat quite still, as he always did,
especially not moving his eyes. I had thought
he would rave if he understood he would die,
wave his arms and cry out. He sat up,
thin, and clean, in his clean gown,
like a holy man. The doctor said,
“There are things we can do which might give you time,
but we cannot cure you.” My father said,
“Thank you.” And he sat, motionless, alone,
with the dignity of a foreign leader.
I sat beside him. This was my father.
He had known he was mortal. I had feared they would have to
tie him down. I had not remembered
he had always held still and kept quiet to bear things,
the liquor a way to keep still. I had not
known him. My father had dignity. At the
end of his life his life began
to wake in me.

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January 17, 2007

Wednesday is Poetry Day: Shakespeare

My first exposure to Shakespeare was in the soundtrack to Hair when I was but a wee lad. The liner notes to one song said it was, "...absolutely beautiful. It was written by Shakespeare," if I recall correctly and at the time I thought it was just poetic license, that Misters Rado, Ragni, and MacDermot were comparing their work to Shakespeare. Boy, was I surprised when I found out they weren't kidding.

Of course, they farted around with the Bard's words, splitting Hamlet's speech and putting the last half first. Can't quite figure out why, but they did and it's fucked me up ever since. Whenever I see it performed, I think the speech is backwards.

I still think it's a beautiful speech, even if it does take place as Hamlet is deep into (faking) his madness. And while it technically may be prose, it reads as poetry.

What a Piece of Work is Man
(Hamlet, Act II, Scene II)

...I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my
mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so
heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth,
seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the
air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical
roof fretted with golden fire,—why, it appears no other thing
to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a
piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in
faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in
action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the
beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what
is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor woman
neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

(On a related note, the British Library has put it's collection of Shakespeare on line...or, as the Library puts it, "On this site you will find the British Library’s 93 copies of the 21 plays by William Shakespeare printed in quarto before the theatres were closed in 1642." Cool, eh? You can find them here.)

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January 10, 2007

Wednesday Is Poetry Day: Scorpion Poetry

The Rattlesnake and Scorpion

by Ruth Yoshiko Okimoto

Said the Scorpion to the Rattlesnake,
"What manner of commotion is happening here?
The sawing of lumber and pounding of nails,
      black tarpaper falls and covers my trail.
Tall fence posts pierce deep into the ground
      securing chainlink fences and barbed wire from town."

Said the Rattlesnake to the Scorpion,
"Indeed, huge pipes obstruct and crisscross my path,
      and loud swishing noises disturb my sleep.
Why, I went foraging for food and found
      my favorite hunting ground vanished today
      and more will dwindle, I've heard them say."

Said the Scorpion to the Rattlesnake,
"And worse even yet, small human fingers foolishly grab
      my sisters, brothers, cousins, and all,
      and drown them in jars filled with alcohol."
"How foolish, indeed," replied the Rattlesnake,
      "Don't they know of your sting, my venomous bite?"

Said the Scorpion to the Rattlesnake,
"What kind of human would dare intrude into our sacred place?
We've lived on this land for centuries, I'm told,
      so, why do they come here to ravage and destroy?
We've lived in peace, both you and I,
      with no intent to hurt or annoy."

Said the Rattlesnake to the Scorpion,
"Some humans, I'm told, regard those who differ in skin
      or thought with what they call 'justifiable' hate."
"As you know," continued the Rattlesnake,
      "humans are the most dangerous animal of all;
      they kill with lethal weapons ten feet tall."

Asked the Scorpion of the Rattlesnake,
"So what do you think they are building here,
      in the midst of our desert home?"
Answered the Rattlesnake with a somber voice,
"It's something menacing, and I fear
      portend of dangers yet unclear."

[This poem was written in 1942, while Okimoto was interned at Poston Relocation Center, Arizona.]

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January 03, 2007

Wednesday is Poetry Day: Ogden Nash

This is a slightly unusual poem by Ogden Nash. Not because it's humorous; most of Nash's poetry was humorous. No, what I find unusual about it is it seems to be a mish-mash of styles. Note how the last five lines are *almost* a limerick (the rhyming scheme is off a bit-ABCCB). I suspect, though, that was accidental.

But that's not important; what I think is important is he's right about what that something about a martini is.

Tanqueray, in my case.

A Drink With Something In It

There is something about a Martini,
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow Martini;
I wish I had one at present.
There is something about a Martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not the vermouth--
I think that perhaps it's the gin.

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December 27, 2006

Wednesday is MAD Poetry Day: MAD Magazine

Quite simply, anything from MAD Magazine needs no introduction, save for the legal stuff: Copyright 1999, by E.C. Publications, this selection is from the December 1995, Super-Special #109 issue:

It's a gas!

The Night Before Christmas, 1999 or St. Nicholas Meets the Population Explosion
(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

'Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the gloom
Not a creature was stirring;
There just wasn't room;
The stockings were hanging
In numbers so great,
We feared that the walls
Would collapse from the weight!

The children like cattle
Were packed off to bed;
We took a quick count;
There were three-hundred head;
Not to mention the grown-ups--
Those hundreds of dozens
Of uncles and inlaws
And twice-removed cousins!

When outside the house
There arose such a din!
I wanted to look
But the mob held me in;
With pushing and shoving
And cursing out loud,
In forty-five minutes
I squeezed through the crowd!

Outside on the lawn
I could see a fresh snow
Had covered the people
Asleep down below;
And up in the sky
What should strangely appear
But an overweight sleigh
Pulled by countless reindeer!

They pulled and they tugged
And they wheezed as they came,
And the red-suited driver
Called each one by name:
"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, comet! On, Cupid!
On Donder and Blitzen!"

"Now, Melvin! Now, Marvin!
Now, Albert and Jasper!
On, Sidney! On, Seymour!
On Harvey and Casper!
Now, Clifford! Now, Max"--
But he stopped, far from through;
Our welcoming house-top
Was coming in view!

Direct to our house-top
The reindeer then sped
With the sleigh full of toys
And St. Nick at the head;
And then like an earthquake
I heard on the roof
The clomping and pounding
Of each noisy hoof!

Before I could holler
A warning of doom,
The whole aggregation
Fell into the room;
And under a mountain
Of plaster and brick
Mingled inlaws and reindeer
And me and St. Nick;

He panted and sighed
Like a man who was weary;
His shoulders were stooped
And his outlook was dreary:
"I'm way behind schedule,"
He said with a sigh,
"And I've been on the road
Since the first of July!"

'Twas then that I noticed
The great, monstrous sack,
Which he barely could hold
On his poor, creaking back;
"Confound it!" he moaned,
"Though my bag's full of toys,
I'm engulfed by the birthrate
Of new girls and boys!"

Then, filling the stockings,
He shook his sad face,
"This job is a killer!
I can't take the pace!
This cluttered old world
Is beyond my control!
There are even millions
Up at the North Pole!"

"Now I'm late!" he exclaimed, "And I really must hurry!
By now I should be over Joplin, Missouri!"
But he managed to sigh as he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Yeah, that looks like Christmas

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December 20, 2006

Wednesday is Poetry Day: e.e. cummings

In 1922, as he was finding his voice, e.e. cummings wrote this poem of a tree, as seen thru the eyes of a small child.

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and I'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

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December 13, 2006

Wednesday is Poetry Day: John Ciardi

Sometimes, a poem leaps out and practically forces me to pick it for Poetry Day. I found this one in a book entitled Echoes: Poems Left Behind, a collection of poetry by John Ciardi that was published after his death in 1986. It's possible Mr. Ciardi never intended it to be published, or perhaps he wasn't satisfied with it and intended to take it out again in a few years, look at it with fresh eyes, and polish it until it was shining.

I chose this one because it was written 27 years ago today.

December 13, 1979
Three squirrels wound and sprung to this remitted
December day chase tumble tails on the lawn.
They must be winter-sure in the elm, permitted
by a plenty in its boles. There's not one acorn
on or under the oak. They go to go.
But why this lawn party? I think they know

the dog is old and stiff, his monster slacked.
His ears tense toward them but it takes four
deliberate heaves to get his hind legs cocked
as if to spring. And what shall he spring for?
There is no energy after energy.
He quivers feral, but then looks at me

as if I might serve them to him in a dish
like Greeks godsent to the ogre. Of my guilt
that I have uncreatured a world to this mish-mash
whine and quiver half-down in the silt
of a sludged instinct, I toss him a soy bone.
He settles for my bogus and settles down.

And the squirrels spin, almost as if they flew,
to the top of the split shake fence, into the spruce,
across it over the roof, over the yew
and into the hemlock thicket, fast and loose,
as fast as easy, around and around again
in the feast of being able to. Amen.

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December 06, 2006

Wednesday is Poetry Day: Ruth Stone

In an interview, Ruth Stone offered the following opinion on poetry and fiction:

J.F.Battaglia: You have written many short stories, some published in The New Yorker, in Commentary and elsewhere; what are some distinctions between poetry and fiction?

Ruth Stone: Prose and stories are more objective. Poems are emotional opinion.

JB: How did that get to be?

RS: I think poems are closer to your mad reactions to life. Also to the self, the wounded. I think a lot of poetry comes out of wounds...

Seen in that light, I admit I looked at Ms. Stone's poem about a young girl turning into her mother (published when she was in her sixties!) in a whole new fashion.

Second Hand Coat
I feel
in her pockets; she wore nice cotton gloves,
kept a handkerchief box, washed her undies,
ate at the Holiday Inn, had a basement freezer,
belonged to a bridge club.
I think when I wake in the morning
that I have turned into her.
She hangs in the hall downstairs,
a shadow with pulled threads.
I slip her over my arms, skin of a matron.
Where are you? I say to myself, to the orphaned body,
and her coat says,
Get your purse, have you got your keys?

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November 29, 2006

Wednesday is Bad Poetry Day: PMS Poetry

The last Wednesday of the month is Bad Poetry Day, and my thanks to annika for this edition's inspiration.

Have you ever googled "pms poetry" lately? You should.

First, we discover PMS is a journal of Poems/Memoirs/Stories by women, and, presumably, for women. There are two poems in the latest online version of PMS and they're not too bad, so they will not be included today. But now you know about the number one google hit for "PMS poetry."

Of course, if you go down just a bit, you find some amateur poetry ("amateur" defined as "not professional." I'm not being insulting here).

Will you get off my back, get away from me.
It’s that time of the month, so just let me be.
I counted out eight, there was ten there instead?
On a day like today, I should stay in bed.

Oh give me a girdle I’m ballooning again,
I resemble a Flintstone, not Wilma but Fred!
On my face the zits like volcanoes erupt.
Clearasil, Topex, I can’t get enough.

Tomorrow I’ll cramp up and wish I was dead,
This hormone imbalance makes me light in the head.
The curse of a woman in child bearing years.
Makes me want for hot flashes, is menopause near?

A warning goes out to the people near us.
Look out pedestrians, “I have P.M.S.”

If the author was trying to be light-hearted, I'd have to say she succeeded, as this is pretty funny. If she was serious, though, she failed miserably. I think it's pretty obvious she was going for humor, though you never know.

Proceeding on, we come across

Drip, Drop
There goes a blod [sic] clot.
Swish, swash
It makes a splash.
Pms is not fun,
But every girl gets one.
My period is such a curse.
I keep tampons in my purse.
Having a period really sucks.
Because when I have it, I can't fuck.

Interesting--the first image grosses men out (and some women too, I'm sure), but by the end...you've completely forgotten what the subject is. Part of it is because the meter and rhyme scheme go right down the toilet (Swish, swash/It makes a splash) but mostly because the author, in the last line, reveals the true tragedy of PMS--besides the wanting to kill the next person who PISSES! YOU! OFF!

Moving on, we find....not too much more, to be honest. You'll find some references to writers talking about their "PMS poetry" which I gather is stuff they dash off while angry or upset or...you know, PMSing...then destroy because even they realize it stinks. But not too much actual poetry about or inspired by PMS is to be found.

Most interesting, though, is an article at salon.com suggesting PMS may have driven Sylvia Plath to suicide. However, I'll leave that discussion (as well as reading the article, to be honest) for another day.

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November 22, 2006

Wednesday is Poetry Day: e.e. cummings

Just over fifty years ago (like, fifty years and two-and-a-half weeks ago) the United States in general, and the United Nations in particular, did nothing while a country in Eastern Europe tried to throw off the yoke of Soviet oppression.

I don't remember much more than that--it's been quite awhile since I've taken a history class. If the teacher told us what the mood of the U.S. was after the failed Hungarian Revolution, I don't remember.

But, based on the following poem by e.e. cummings, I suspect a portion of the country felt the U.S. could have done more.


a monstering horror swallows
this unworld me by you
as the god of our fathers' father bows
to a which that walks like a who

but the voice-with-a-smile of democracy
announces night & day
"all poor little peoples that want to be free
just trust in the u s a"

suddenly uprose hungary
and she gave a terrible cry
"no slave's unlife shall murder me
for i will freely die"

she cried so high thermopylae
heard her and marathon
and all prehuman history
and finally The UN

"be quiet little hungary
and do as you are bid
a good kind bear is angary
we fear for the quo pro quid"

uncle sam shrugs his pretty
pink shoulders you know how
and he twitches a liberal titty
and lisps "i'm busy right now"

so rah-rah-rah democracy
let's all be as thankful as hell
and bury the statue of liberty
(because it begins to smell)

(The Wikipedia entry discussing the 1956 Hungarian Revolution is here.)

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November 15, 2006

Wednesday Is Poetry Day

[A special guest post by Sheila from The Sheila Variations]

Annika asked me to write an introduction today to Petula Clark's poem, "The Theatre." I immediately thought of her best known song, "Downtown" of course. Petula Clark is one of the most successful female artists of all time, just in terms of the number of hits she has had. After "Downtown", she had 15 consecutive Top 40 hits. That's insane. To me, it feels like she has always been there.

But I also thought about my aunt - who was in the Broadway show Blood Brothers with Petula, and understudied Petula's part. This was a big deal for my aunt, who had been in the business for years, but was making her Broadway debut in Blood Brothers. The entire O'Malley clan, the crowd of nieces and nephews, all flocked to New York to see my aunt on Broadway. Most of us are in the theatre as well, actors, directors, writers. We knew that the whole "one big break" thing is kind of a myth, that it often takes a couple of little breaks to lead to the REALLY big break, but still, it was very exciting to go see her.

We sat in the darkened theatre, and Petula was the lead, of course, and she was fantastic (great recording, by the way, if you like Petula Clark. It's definitely worth listening to) - but all we could see was our aunt, in her smaller part. Petula Smetula. LOOK AT OUR AUNT ON BROADWAY. If our aunt had a funny line, we all HOWLED with laughter. When our aunt made an entrance we all gripped hands together. Afterwards, we went backstage - there were about 15 of us - ranging in age from 25 to 7 years old (you know, Irish Catholic family). And there was Petula Clark. What I remember now, and what came up for me when Annika asked me to write this piece today - is how sweet she was to all of us, and also - how much she GOT that we were there for our AUNT, not for her. Ms. Clark put her arm around my aunt, and said to all of us, grinning, "Isn't she just marvelous?" It was like she was just another member of the ensemble. She's Petula freakin' Clark! But she also somehow understood that this was a big moment for my aunt, and she was supportive and cool about it. I always liked her for that. Another star would have sniffed at all the little kids clamoring backstage to see a cast member other than her! But Petula Clark just stood there, enjoying my aunt's success vicariously.

Enough about that. Annika sent me the poem below and I'll just say one or two quick things about it. It's obviously not a very good poem, just in terms of language or form. It's not T.S. Eliot. But I found it strangely touching, because of its sincerity. It doesn't have any pretension (which is more than you can say for a lot of poetry!) It is honest. Perhaps I can relate to it because I grew up in a theatrical family, and I am an actress myself. She is speaking about my life, about something that is important to me. more...

Posted by: annika at 10:39 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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November 08, 2006

Wednesday is Poetry Day: Robert W. Service

What can I say about "The Cremation of Sam McGee" except...

..."Sam McGee" is the answer to a question in Trivial Pursuit ("Who was cremated on the marge of Lake LeBarge?"). This is a fun little read that starts out sounding like a ghost story--almost like "The Tell-Tale Heart" only without the guilt-ridden confession at the end.

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Actic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake LeBarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold til I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead - it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn, but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate these last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows - O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent, and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Til I came to the marge of Lac LeBarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the 'Alice May.'
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then, "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared - such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow;
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked;"... then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door!
It's warm in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm--
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake LeBarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

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