Poetic injustice

I was blessed by a public school education that exposed me to a lot of poetry.

I can’t remember if we read any in early grade school, but certainly in Miss Pattinson’s sixth grade class we read our fair share. I specifically remember reading “Excelsior” by Longfellow, because before it was assigned, I thought excelsior was just that weird packing material.

Miss Pattinson also had us read “If” by Kipling. And to take the rote cake, she made us memorize “Invictus” by Wm. Henley. And now, some 60 years later I can still remember those memorable lines — “Head bloody but unbowed,” and “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul..” Powerful stuff for an 11-year-old, I don’t mind tellin’ ya.

I don’t know if kids today get exposed to many poets in school. And I’ve a feeling that if they do, it’s not the old-school ones we read: Sandburg, Frost, Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, ee you-know-who. And I’m sure kids never see light poetry like Ogden Nash, Robert W. Service or Ernest Thayer, either.

I imagine they’re exposed to contemporary poets … and more’s the pity.

While the old poets came out of the storytelling tradition, and thus told you about the world, it seems the new poetry is self-conscious blather written by self-promoting “aesthetes” who think they are the world. So anything important to them, should be important to us, things like their croissants and their casseroles, their hangnails and their headaches. The rest of the world can just take a hike.

As for the poetry itself? Far as I’m concerned, it’s not even poetry, so much as sentences written vertically. And worst of all, because those sensitive souls’ full-time job is taking themselves oh-so-seriously, there’s almost no such thing as humorous verse anymore. At least not humorous verse that’s actually funny.

What, of course, is needed is a new voice, a new vision, an as-yet-undiscovered poet who understands rhythm, meter, rhyme and the rest, and who, to top it off, is genuinely funny.

Luckily, we have that person, right here in My Home Town. And even more luckily, I can showcase his stuff in this column because, of course, he is me.

And now, as the Poet Laureate of the Lakeview Deli, I would like to present my latest work, a timely piece entitled …

Calamine is a Pal o’ Mine

Summer is back.

Oh, most joyous news!

We’ll ride, hike and swim

And attend barbecues

Our snow shovels are stored,

Our Sorels are all packed,

For now no one cares

How much wood has been stacked.

But along with our joy

A curse came to pass —

The flies are now back.

Alack! And Alas!

They come in all colors,

Sizes and kinds.

And every darn one

Drives us out of our minds.

There’s skeeters, no-see-ums,

Black, horse and deer,

With evil intent

That’s abundantly clear.

Each punctures my dermis

In a manner unique,

But the result is the same:

I itch and scratch like a freak.

I got bit on my eye

And now it’s half shut.

There’s a lump on my ear,

A chunk outta my butt.

While one is now chewing

The web of my fingers,

The two on my back

Just thrust in their stingers.

As a gang of mosquitos

Devour my wrist

I swatted a house fly

(and, as expected, I missed)

They zoom in on waves

Of ceaseless attack.

To fight them is futile:

Effective repellant we lack.

They’ve gobbled each inch

Of this unfortunate fella,

In spite of applying

Quarts of citronella.

I kill five hundred

At a furious pace

And five hundred more

Soon take up their place.

‘Tis truly a plague

Of epic dimension

That fills me with rage

And doptera-i-cidal intention.

For what is to them

An everyday snack,

Is our equivalent

Of the medieval rack.

All of this puts me

In a most morbid mood.

How could I have known

Flies love Kosher food?

And if this drawn-out account

Seems o’erdone and abstract,

I can tell you right now

It’s mere matter of fact.

Which is why I’m holed up

In my little ole shack.

And I’ll stay there till fall —

Just me and my pack.