Shakespeare had his molting geese
And Gutenberg his lumps of lead;
I have my laptop. When they cease
To function, words inside my head
Collide cacophonously. Peace
Will not return until they’re read
Though first they must be written. Fleece
Won’t warm you till the sheep’s been shed
Of wool; linguistic expertise
Won’t help if your computer’s dead.
When future King Macbeth was but a bairn
With six brief candles burning on his cake
Had yet the Sisters Weird prepared the cairn
Commemorating all the lives he’d take?
Were Banqsy and the Duffster good as dead
Before they’d even learned to wash their hands?
When cowlicks formed the crown atop Beth’s head
Had Fate already issued her commands?
When memories of marching woods were green
And children dared their friends to say The Name,
Did some hypothesize a time machine
With which to kill Macbeth ere he became
His generation’s Hitler? Could the lad
Have ducked his luck, or was it ever bad?
William Shakespeare used to have a head
In which he kept his pentametric brain
And nimble tongue. However, now he’s dead,
His jests are much more finite. I’ll explain:
Researchers focused radar on the tomb
At Holy Trinity where Shakespeare lay
In state, if not intact, and when the boom
Bounced back, it seemed his skull had gone astray.
The crime, if one there was, has not been proven–
Disinterment isn’t on the table–
But if I had to guess who’s been removin’
Bardly bones, there’s surely one who’s able:
Did Hamlet’s kith and kin all perish? No!
One pal survived. What ho, Horatio?
There isn’t much that one can do
When canvas belts encompass you
And tables in the form of trays
For upright status garner praise
In tandem with the backs of seats.
Restricted thusly, one retreats
As wart-shy tots before a toad
Or barnfowl from a just-crossed road
To one’s devices electronic,
Seeking solace in the sonic
Of tunes piped through one’s own head’s phones.
It wasn’t long ago that planes
Provided passengers with strains
Of comfort curated and fed
Through plastic tubes that stretched from head
To armrest–for a princely fee–
But nowadays we rarely see
Air agents hawking rental speakers
To receptive travel-seekers,
Since the lately Savage Beast
That Music soothed is long deceased,
A victim of that appetite
From which Orsino banned respite,
And most of those who might have rented
In-flight calm are quite contented
With the custom minstrelsy
Embodied in an MP3.
Oh, look, the seat belt sign’s alight!
My muse awaits. Enjoy your flight.
Billy boy, we hardly knew ye, for
You lived about a million years ago
And almost never write stuff any more
(I’m kinda jazzed for Double Falsehood, though).
In April 1563 your birth
Was not reported on the evening news;
By 1616, when you died, the worth
Of what you wrote no critic could refuse.
Next year this date will mark four centuries
Since undiscover’d countries lost their “un”
At least for you. (Stocks in apostrophes
Still soar each time your plays begin a run.)
Condolences, and happy birthday, too.
We’ll immolate a birthday cake for you.
What’s sharper than a serpent’s tooth?
And no, it’s not ungrateful youth.
I’m serious: Tell, if you can,
What’s literally sharper than
A serpent’s tooth? Can’t answer yet?
It’s venomous, plus also wet,
And travels with a real, live shark
Attached to it, and leaves a mark
That’s vaguely Y-shaped where it strikes
(A monogram that stands for “Yikes!”).
Give up? Well, as I learned today,
The answer is Haller’s Round Ray,
Or Urolophus halleri,
Named after some poor kid when he
Was barbed in San Diego Bay
Not far from where I swam today
Just south of PB’s Crystal Pier–
It’s beautiful; wish you were here!
But if you come, a tip from me:
Don’t walk like you’re on land, in sea,
But slide your feet from spot to spot.
I mostly do, but I forgot
This morning. Then the barb went in.
It won’t soon slip my mind again.
I caught some good waves anyway,
Then boiled my foot, so I’m okay.
But Lear should know: A child’s curse
May sting, but stingray barbs are worse.
This might look like a sonnet, but it’s not.
For one, it hasn’t any sort of rhyme
(Much less a scheme); for two, it lacks a lot
Of lines, although fourteen could come with time.
It’s not Italian, that much is clear,
Or we’d have seen lines two and three reversed
Which makes no sense. Spenserian? I feare
That mae be sowe–mye spelyng’s faire acurs’d.
But hold: a b a b b c b c
c d c d e e’s what Spenser wrought;
Though there’s a growing scheme, it seems to be
(So far, at least) the sort that Shakespeare sought.
It’s not a sonnet…well, it’s sonnet-ish.
It doesn’t matter. Call it what you wish.