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Thread: Pompey Bum Redux

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Uncanny Valley

    Pompey Bum Redux

    Dark Mage and ShadowLight asked me if I would repost a few of these so, lo! Three depressing poems about death, sin, and songbirds, and three comical ones about--jokes? I probably posted them in slightly different forms the first time. Oh, and my favorite is the last one--about the gerbil's midlife crisis.

    Thistle or A Snakeskin Found

    I found your skin this morning, Lucifer,
    Papery dead, in a forest of fiddlehead fern.
    You were there. You left it for me, turned
    And twisted on a thistle's purple crown.
    Such was the blossom you gave me once,
    The one I loved until it spread
    And brought in every snapping, black-capped bird
    And choked off sprigs that might have grown instead,
    And there was nothing ever to be said
    Nor thought nor done nor writ nor planned,
    But only each stalk to be held in bleeding hands,
    And like a loose skinned and indifferent man,
    To root each grasping bastard up
    And cast it dead upon the land.
    I found your skin today, old foe,
    In a forest of fiddlehead fern.
    And all I've ever wanted to know
    Is where a child of God may turn.

    First Snow

    We had hardly noticed, scarcely known
    The virgin frost, the seraph's breath,
    The snow sparks scattered like fragmented bone,
    Bleached, immaculate, falling fresh
    From purity, like Satan tumbling down
    To frozen Eden's broken fields and down and down to death.

    Our petulance, this bitter icecap sea
    That swept along our black and fertile earth,
    It crept on us. It left us harsh and hard and free
    As snowbirds chipping in a twig-cage berth;
    Yet huddled here within our failing lee
    We dare behold what we've become
    And still find you and me.

    First Snowbird Noticed

    Canadian traveler
    Tumbling before the blast,
    Ask no more of me, of us,
    Than to weather these, our skies,
    Born on black feathers,
    And the glistening hoarfrost
    Fallen with your flight,
    This bone-dead starry night,
    True light from true light.
    Prophet, ask no more
    Than to lay your frozen dead
    In the holy whiteness
    Of our Puritan snows.
    Our snow-white God well knows
    The falling of a sparrow,
    Time's arrow, and the loosing of death's sting;
    While only frightened snowbirds sing,
    Deaf to all that I may ask--
    Tumbling before the blast.


    Goliath was a Philistine,
    We went to a museum.
    He rolled his eyes at Rubens' thighs
    (Alhough you've got to to see 'em).
    He didn't like the way Van Dyck
    Resolved his light and shadow.
    When I explained, he said, all pained:
    "Oh, yadda, yadda, yadda!"
    Poor Titian's flairs drew sullen stares,
    Picasso fared no better.
    He just said no to all Van Gogh;
    Cezanne was a dead letter.
    Then at the overpriced cafe
    He griped, "The mocha's tart.
    I don't know why you want to stay
    If this is what's called art."
    He girded up his loins and left,
    He took his sword and sling.
    Before he stuck me with the check
    I noticed one last thing:
    Goliath was a Philistine,
    A petty bourgeoisie,
    But when beyond such things I'd seen,
    I saw the man was me.

    The Voluptuous Sphinx

    There was a voluptuous sphinx
    Who made a sly riddle, the minx.
    She loosened her bodice
    And posed like a goddess
    And asked what a gentleman thinks.

    "One thinks," I began, "thou art pretty,
    And thy charms not at all itty-bitty.
    But be they so pert,
    Keep 'em, please, in thy shirt
    For I'm bound by a husband's chas-titty.

    She flickered her tail in respect
    And clawed a few fleas from her neck.
    Then she knocked off her jive
    And she ate me alive:
    For my answer was wrong I expect.

    Joseph Gerbil's Midlife Crisis

    There once was a gerbil named Joe,
    Or a hamster or rat, I don't know.
    He spent his days running
    With terrible cunning;
    He thought he'd get somewhere--mais non.

    One day Joseph jumped down from his wheel,
    And he thought, "Okay now, what's the deal?
    My lifelong endeavor
    Has furthered me never."
    And he stormed and he raged (okay, squealed).

    That night Joseph escaped his terrarium,
    But he fell in a neighboring aquarium.
    I found the poor pup
    Floating there belly up,
    And I thought that I really should bury him.

    And yet Joseph survived his ordeal
    And returned to his plexiglass jail,
    Embracing his lot
    With the gerbilish thought
    Of accepting life's woe with its weal.

    Here ends my ridiculous verse:
    I confess that I've written none worse.
    Joe lived through his crisis
    Having paid dreadful prices.
    You've paid aught, critic, spare me your curse.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-08-2019 at 09:31 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Daaaannnggg, Pompey Bum!

    These are exceptional and I love each one! I am now a huge admirer. I think I am going to read all your past posts now.

    You make me want to write much better than I currently do.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Uncanny Valley
    You are far too kind and you know it. But thanks just the same. I don't share many of my serious poems because they are too personal (or I just don't want to have them around). There is plenty of my comic verse on the limerick thread and on another called something like Write a Really Bad Poem. Here's an old one from somewhere in the middle. It's comic but not doggerel (not that there's anything wrong with doggerel). There was a challenge a few years ago to write a short poem about beer. This was my entry:

    The Vicar's Pint

    Wine to make hearts glad
    Is what the Good Book says;
    Alas! It also says to be not drunk on wine.
    That's fine. My sins run well along another vine.
    Though black as death, a stealthy draught of stout
    Is just the thing to get the devil out.
    No mind, then, when the vicar comes to call
    And peccadillos fall before his pomp:
    A pint of beer will put him on his way
    And leave a gladdened heart here for his pay.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    It's hard to choose a favorite here Pompey, these are all excellently written. I'm pretty certain you are a literary major.

    I think though if I had to choose, it would be "Thistle or A Snakeskin Found". I like the heavier and existential questioning themes in poetry as a preference overall. This one is truly captivating. For me I love the relation of the snake's skin to lucifer. Not only because it is common in Catholic imagery, but also because of the recurring nature of a snake shedding skin. Death is as constantly shedding and renewing- eternally. The image of a merciless man pulling weeds up is perfectly befitting, and disheartening. So where is a child of God to turn? Maybe an answering poem in the future?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Uncanny Valley
    Well, thank you for your sympathetic commentary. I have a reasonably good liberal arts education, but no, I've never been a literature major (which has had the effect of freeing me from postmodern orthodoxy). I am mid retired and committed to reading my way unto to death. I mention this because of your comments on another thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowlight View Post
    Your works really are moving. There are a few I want to give more commentary to, but I have little time to myself and often it can take me weeks to get on here with the attention it deserves, so I forego the quick posts until late at night when I can. I always get to though...eventually.
    What I have is nothing but time. If you are a student or professional (or just a busy person), your responsibilities need to take priority. I'll blather away and you can respond when you can. Don't worry about it.

    So I'm glad you liked the Thistle poem. If I were to single it out for a fault, I would say it lacks sufficient color. That is especially important in a poem about things that seemed alluring but ended up papery dead. The thistle blossom is purple, which helps. Thistles are gorgeous plants (I don't do them justice), but bitter thorns await. And purple is a color of worldly error in some of the Prophets. It's a reasonable start.

    But the rest of the colors are only implied. I'm only hoping the reader see the green ferns in the miniature forest. And I am especially hoping (probably in vain) the reader understands the "snapping black-capped birds" are goldfinches. I wasn't able to say that without making the metrical flow awkward, and I gave priority to "snapping black-capped birds" because it sounds like snapping. Goldfinches are brilliant yellow with little black caps. They love thistle seeds and descend on fields where thistles grow. But despite their attractive appearance, they are savagely aggressive with one another--at least when eating. And their black caps suggest judges handing down a death sentence. Like the thistles, they are not what they seem. I wanted the purple and gold because it suggested worldly power and vice. Byron saw it the same way in his "Destruction of Sennacherib":

    The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold,
    And his cohorts were shining in purple and gold;
    And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
    When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

    Now there was a guy who knew how to use color.

    The rest of my poem doesn't even have implied color (except once with blood), but that is probably just as well. It helps the tone grow grim for the return of the dead snakeskin at the end. But I wish the color had been more explicit earlier on. The contrast would have helped.

    And I suppose some would say my imagery is obscure. I appreciate your comment about "allowing the reader to dig into your cryptic imagery to derive the meaning for themselves." Yes, that's what I try to do. I have a certain vision or Muse moment which I try to record in images before its gone (in this case it happened while I was walking back behind my house and found a snakeskin blown against a thistle). I don't project these images intellectually, although I do organize the poem that way (it's like interpreting a dream, if that makes any sense). In fact, I fuss with my poems endlessly.

    So this leaves what I meant by the poem and what someone else may mean by the poem. That is not nihilism, by the way. It is not a poem about just anything and therefore nothing meaningful. But that doesn't mean it can't spark different meaningful responses to the various images.

    So having said all that, I'lol tell you what "Thistle or A Snakeskin Found" meant when I wrote it. But I'd be curious to hear the story you told yourself first. Maybe you can tell me at some point after you return. And I'll do the same for yours.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-08-2019 at 11:54 AM.

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