Only Tuesday Already

This week’s dragged on for days and days–
Well, days. (Plus half a day.)
The weekend’s out there in the haze;
It’s, like, a week away!
Okay, that’s dumb. Friday will come,
And when it does I’m sure I’ll smile
But Tuesday — now — my face is numb.
This week, a smile might take a while.

The Tapir

The tapir stands upon the shelf
And gazes down upon myself
Adjacent gapes a greatmouth snake…
I really hope I’m not awake.

A Dark, Dark Place

Deep inside a man’s soul is a dark, dark place.
Not a pretty thought, no, but it’s true.
And it might be a pretty thought, actually;
If it’s dark, then it’s obviously hard to see
And “pretty’s” subjective: What’s pretty for you
Could for me be irrelevant space.

Deep inside a man’s soul is a dark, dark place.
Not just “dark,” mind you: dark comma dark.
That’s the kind of dark where, when your eyes first adjust
And your pupils expand, as in darkness they must,
And you start to distinguish faint shapes, then a shark
Bites your eyeballs right out of your face.

Not that I think that could happen, of course.
After all, sharks aren’t known for precision.
If one ate your eyeballs, your nose would go, too,
And, most likely, the whole of the top side of you
Would be rendered a quick disposition,
And the surgeon would feel no remorse.
(The surgeon’s the shark, here, of course.)

Deep inside a man’s soul is a dark, dark place.
And that’s not any man in particular;
The indefinite article’s meant to imply
That a man is every man, not just one guy
With a really dark interventricular
Groove in his cardiac space.

Plus, the heart and the soul are two quite different things.
One’s a muscle, the other’s a vessel
Containing within its indefinite shell
The credentials to get into heaven or hell–
Will you tie or be tied to the trestle?
(For the latter, th’angelic host sings.)
When your heart stops, the soul’s alarm rings.

Deep inside a man’s soul is a dark, dark place.
By the way, that applies, too, to women:
The double-dark soul isn’t gender-specific
It’s neutral, which, normally, would be terrific
If this weren’t the place those oracuvores* swim in.
*That’s eye-eater, which, just in case
You forgot, means a shark ate your face.

So, to recap, in both men and women exists
An utterly, massively double-dark hole
In the wallet containing the passport to Life
Everlasting, perpetual freedom from strife,
Or, potentially, unending pain…so the whole
Point is this: Life and death’s full of twists,
So Die Hard — Scrunch your toes into fists.

Mind Like A Steel Sieve

Ironically, I still have perfect recall
Of the days when my mind was as quick as a squall
On the Chesapeake Bay. I’d blow in from the hall
At the Naval Academy, glance at the small
Printed list on the tackboard, and instantly all
The dynamic arcana displayed there would fall
Into place in my brain with a click, like the ball
In a game of roulette, just in time for “chow call”:

SIRTHEREARETENMINUTESUNTILNOONMEA
LFORMATIONNOONMEALFORMATIONWILLBE
HELDOUTSIDETHEUNIFORMFORNOONM
EALFORMATIONISSERVICEDRESSBLUESDE
LTATHEMENUFORNOONMEALISSPAGHETTI
WITHMEATSAUCEMASHEDPOTATOESAUG
RATINGREENBEANSCHOCOLATECHIPCOO
KIETHEMAJOREVENTSINTHEYARDTODAYA
REMENSLACROSSEVERSUSSALISBURYST
ATEMENSANDWOMENSCROSSCOUNTRYV
ERSUSTOWSONSTATETHEOFFICEROFTHE
WATCHISLIEUTENANTCOMMANDERPERKIN
SELEVENTHCOMPANYOFFICERTHEASSIST
ANTOFFICEROFTHEWATCHISLIEUTENANTM
CCARDLETTWENTYNINTHCOMPANYOFFICE
RTHEMIDSHIPMANOFFICEROFTHEWATCHIS
MIDSHIPMANLIEUTENANTJACKSONTWELFT
HCOMPANYCOMMANDERYOUHAVETENMIN
UTESSIR!

The data don’t race to my brain, now. They crawl
At the pace of a teenager strolling the mall
When there’s homework at home. They malinger, they stall
Like a cowardly anarchist dodging a brawl
With the jackbooted thugs of The Man, or the moll
Of a gangster who’s tired of playing the doll
Or a half-hearted hoplite advancing on Gaul
When he’d rather be working on Hadrian’s Wall.

Less auctioneer’s patter than slow southern drawl
New facts lollygag with a capital LOLL
And it’s odd: I can tell you that Timothy Spaal
Portrayed Lupu in Brecht’s The Life Story of Baal
(1978); or exactly how tall
Lew Alcindor’s (Kareem’s) mom and dad were; that bawl
Is derived from Old Norse; the correct protocol
Used for folding a flag. But your name? Is it…Paul?

The Scapegoat

A momentous occurrence took place on this date
Forty years in the past, so I must have been eight
Which would mean, in its turn, I’d been learning to rhyme
From the suddenly late Ogden Nash for three years by that time.

The very first poem I read to a crowd
Was The Wombat. As I recall, I was quite proud
Of the way, at age five, I had brought to its knees
(By pronouncing it right) the word “antipodes.”

My sister had taught me to read at age three
And I learned what delight silly verses could be
Reading Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat In the Hat
And a dozen more Dr. Seuss classics like that.

Then, the day I turned five, I was given a book
That contained in its pages a treble-barbed hook
That I swallowed along with its sinker and line:
Beastly Poetry, by Ogden Nash, was now mine.

The Cow and The Fly, “Little gamboling lamb….”
These are the verses that made who I am
As a poet from he whom I’d likely still be
If I hadn’t been training for them since age three.

Mr. Nash never shied from a challenging rhyme,
And he wasn’t a slave to the meter if making the lyric go longer would help him achieve the harmonious pairing that would have eluded a poet who elevates form over function which Ogden did none of the time,
And likewise, if it became clear that his mistress insisted on brevity from any poet desiring to court her,
He’d go shorter.

Even now, when I’m tired, yet needing to write
My new verse for the day, and it’s nearing midnight,
The beast that I summon when energy’s laggin’
Is Custard, the “realio, trulio” dragon.

Since the day he passed on, I’ve lived eight years times five,
But no matter how many more years I’m alive
As surely as poison oak raises a rash,
Every rhyme I contrive can be blamed on O. Nash.

The Music Man

One hundred nine years ago today
In Mason City, Eye-oh-way,
Robert Meredith Willson sang
The note from which The Music Man sprang.
I’ll celebrate with Ludwig B.,
And think the Minuet in G.