Author’s Note: This post collects some shorter “poems” I have written at different times. In my opinion, none of these are as good as “Half Hours on Earth,” although “For Ann” could be if I could finish it. In other words, all of these are pretty minor, although “Check-Out Girl” is not bad. A more prudent writer might hesitate to publish fragments like “My Uncle” or “The Pomegranate.” I, for one, am always interested in the artistic process, and part of my process includes coming up with little pieces of stuff I don’t know what to do with. For each “poem,” I have included a comment—the comments are just there to provide a little context. Basically, these are all “b-sides.”
I think about my uncle
when my uncle comes to mind
Comment: This couplet is completely ridiculous, doesn’t rhyme, and doesn’t mean anything. I have no idea when I came up with it, however for some reason it sticks with me. So much so, in fact, that I closed my “set” at a poetry open mic in Tokyo a little while back with “My Uncle.” The audience there was surprisingly receptive. “Right on,” they said, “that’s when you do think about your uncle.” Thanks folks, means a lot.
The pomegranate is essential to the sophisticated palate
Far more evolved than onion, watercress or shallot
Comment: Another couplet from god knows when, this one at least rhymes so let’s call it complete.
A potatoey fellow
skin papery yellow proposed to you once in the rain.
But though he bleated intently
from the back of his Bentley
you said ‘potato, you give me a pain.’
Comment: This is one of my sneaky favorites. It’s also totally absurd, and I don’t remember when I wrote it, however I think I had seen some guy getting blown off by a girl and so I came up with the potatoey fellow. Although not exactly “finished,” it also has nowhere to go, so let’s call this one done too.
“Mod-Con (for Joe)”
A friend remarked to me,
as we reposed I and he
could be improved on?”
dull and droned as a sun-drugged fly,
I didn’t know.
“The washing machine
I mean, dirty clothes revolving in
come out clean?”
Comment: Back in the day I had a friend called Joe. Joe was kind of a sleazy dude, but he was a good photographer and taught me a few things about that. He also came up with some left field ideas, such as when he critiqued the entire concept of the washing machine. Joe didn’t get the washing machine, and so I wrote a poem about that. Although finished I don’t think this one is really very good, so I’ll just leave it here, as a b-side.
I’m gonna get my haircut soon
maybe in the month of June
man, it’ll be smooth
Way up in Bostontown
to Atlanta they’ll get down
with the news
I’ll have girls on every hand
who’ll all think I’m the man
I can’t lose
Yeah I’ll play that haircut game
to popular acclaim
among gentiles and Jews
Comment: One time I needed a haircut, so I wrote about that. This was a popular one with my readers back in the day, and I like it too.
Ann belle princess of the isles
the orbs whisper your name even if you’ve gotten piles
or if you’re on the game
Buxom barmaid or bellicose barfly
begs the inevitable question
booze improves the poet’s eye. but ruins her digestion
Comment: My friend Ann from Hamilton College went to England after graduation and she and I exchanged a few letters, back when people still wrote letters. She wrote me that she was drinking some, so I wrote a poem about my image of her over there. The original poem had two or three more verses, but they were terrible. Then a little while back I reconnected with Ann, which was great, and re-worked the poem, which wasn’t. It might have been a little better, but it was still bad. These two stanzas, on the other hand, are awesome, and maybe that’s all there ever needs to be said about Ann in England, you know?
In a glade near his home roamed a boy called Jerome when he met with the sight of the devil
who asked for his soul in a Tupperware bowl in a voice smug and typically level
though of manner quite mild the cunning wee child prepared a surprise for the devil
who felt sorely deceived when the soul he received belonged to the neighbor’s boy, Nevil
Comment: This little poem is one of the first things I wrote that I liked. I wrote it sometime during high school. At that time I was influenced by limericks (both dirty and clean) and nonsense poetry such as Edward Lear. One doesn’t write stuff like this without having read a bunch of nonsense poetry.
“A Pious Reformer Called Mather”
A pious reformer named Mather/ was frequently known to blather/ about the great judgment hour/ but the word from the shower/ was that Mather knew his way around lather.
Comment: This was also written in high school, after we had learned about some religious dude called Cotton Mather from the 19th century or something. This poem is super inappropriate and I don’t stand by it; however it is representative of my work at the time.
jim went to the store on Tuesday to buy eggs
and fell in love with the red-haired check out girl
jim of the drab brown suit and bifocals
of the pint size milk cartons on the floor of his car
jim who at sixteen thought he might have a ‘calling’
who would have made a good camp counselor
kids for christ
jim fell in love with the red-hired girl and her little turquoise earrings
when he went for his groceries
jim of the tedious but inevitable self-gratification
jim who is definitely not (not) gay
who recently gave up hair tonic
but still has a fine head of hair for a man his age
(thirty four in september)
thank you very much
who always wanted to see Topeka, Kansas
just because of the name
jim of no artistic pretensions
who nevertheless sits down to compose a poem
to the check-out girl
with the red hair, the turquoise earrings and the toothy smile
who’s nineteen if she’s a day
he’s in love
no question about it
Comment: I wrote this one in Flagstaff, Arizona when I was going to graduate school. I was playing basketball one day and this poem started to come into my head all at once. So I went home and wrote it down. I don’t know where any of this came from, but it’s not bad. Maybe it’s actually OK, I don’t know.