Sunday, January 31, 2021

Furtive Foxes

Faithless Furry Foxy Fiends Find Friendship

Foxes, Foxes

Foxes are fine furtive creatures
that won't look you straight in the eye,
and two eyes mean cleverer features,
so is that there what makes them so sly?

And they're much smarter than they appear.
They must be if stories don't lie.
They've tricked us for many a year,
for they play dumb the game of I-Spy!

Foxes are actually smarter than this poem allows. They see everything.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Wolf: Disdains to Woof

Today is the turn of the wolf:

Wolves, Wolves

Wolves are such cool, eerie creatures.
They look some like dogs, but they're not.
And those doggone, fierce lupine features
say, "Catch me. I'll still not be caught.

For elusive's my spirit forever,
and you'll track me across endless skies,
and waste your eternity, whether
or not you see that the worm never dies."

Somehow sublime . . .

Friday, January 29, 2021

Chickens are Chicken?

To call someone a chicken is to call that person a coward, likewise to call someone "chickensh*t".

Chickens, Chickens

Chickens are chickensh*t creatures,
or everyone likes to think that,
but try out some chickensh*t features,
and find where the truth lies at.

But the truth lies nowhere, you say,
for it's true wherever it lies.
Well, reach under the brood hen where eggs lay:
you're in for a great big surprise!

Still think chickens are chickensh*t?

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Skeptical Sheep?

Bah! Humbug! It's all a lie!

Sheep, Sheep

"Bah," say the sheep, though these creatures
are most easily gulled on this earth.
They think it a compliment's features
that gulls have, but others in dearth.

When told they're a flock like all gulls,
they most blissfully take to the air,
but each smash of the face, and the brain dulls
apace. Just look at them practice out there.

A gullard's a dullard's gullard. Just ask any dullard.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Swinish Pig-Hog

Epic Pan(dem)ic: Been a Sick Year!

Pigs, Pigs

Point of fact, pigs are really clean creatures 
who'd prefer to smell good and look nice,
but must give up these finer of features 
because we exact a small price.

That price is, they live in a toilet,
for that's just what a hog pond is,
and we save a few pennies at market,
which ain't fair, but oh, well, that's biz.

After butchering the pigs, we do clean them up a bit. We don't want more covid blood on our hands.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Mountain Ghosts . . . if they lose their footing

Do mountain goats ever lose their footing as they bound from crag to crag?

Goats, Goats

Goats are hell-bound insidious creatures,
and their eyes are demonic and dark.
Up a cliff-face they'll walk that features
an ease like a stroll in the park.

But they cannot fly long without wings,
just accelerated flight to the ground,
as each its own swan song it sings,
non plus plumes, plummets down to that sound.

Too bad goats have no feathers . . .

Monday, January 25, 2021

A Lot of Bull?

I'm running out of pets. Could milk cows serve as pets? There is PET milk . . .

Cows, Cows

Cows are quite cowardly creatures,
and they never feel shame for that.
It's the best of their endearing features,
since they'd otherwise trample us flat!

But a male cow won't cow, might some say,
to which I would loudly cry, "Bull!"
There is no such beast, might I nay
say, though Meinong's odd jungle be full.

I used to call "Hereford" bulls "heifer" bulls. The two words sound similar in Ozark dialect.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A Parrot is Pretty Smart - For a Birdbrain

Let's give parrots their due:

Parrots, Parrots

Grey parrots are wicked smart creatures.
They can count, and they know zero, too!
Those are pretty astonishing features
since some humans lack even a clue.

But they've no head for higher mathematics,
and they'd rather just chat the day long.
They're the most best at linguistic antics,
where they've never been known to be wrong.

Full disclosure: A grey parrot wrote this poem.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Rad Rabbits!

And let's not neglect rabbits:

Bunnies, Bunnies

Bunnies are small, timid creatures,
except when they're cornered too tight.
They show then their bloodthirsty features,
and explode in fierce f*ck-it-all fight.

But mostly they like to have silence,
eat their radishes, turnips, and pears,
stocked up on by great careful diligence,
stacked high to the tops of their lairs.

That's it. Basically. They don't do much else.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Emotional Physics 101

For every action, there is an opposing and unequal overreaction.

The case of the microaggression:

The evidence is strongest in the case when the theorized microaggression does not exist, for the overreaction is then utterly out of all proportion to the (non)action.

This case is the most common case.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Wild Horses? Horses are ever wild.

We now raise our glasses to horses:

Horses, Horses

Horses are great regal creatures,
oft tall, well-muscled, and fine.
They teach us as if they were teachers,
while we just to teaching incline.

But they sometimes do seem so obtuse,
take an angle that cannot be right,
till we set our good horse sense in use
and recall not with horses to fight.

Remember. Horses are always right.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

About Dogs

And here's to dogs:

Dogs, Dogs

Dogs are obsequious creatures.
They live life on bended knee
and servilely serve their betters
and secretly water each tree.

But they love us in spite of their flaws,
and those faults are not really so bad.
And they'll openly flout the small laws
and provide us the best times we've had.

Small laws like "Keep Off the Grass!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Re-composition of the Cat Poem

My son Jaeuk liked the poem but also suggested a slight emendation. He wanted me to delete "of the" in line seven, resulting in this: "And they hear the wild call." I preferred to keep my original version of the line, for various reasons, but my son did motivate me to consider other changes, and here is my slightly edited re-composition:

Kitty, Kitty

Cats are mysterious creatures.
They look like they're made of fluff
and finely feathered features
that furnish their inner stuff.

But they're red in truth and all
of the vicious carnivore arts.
And they hear the wild of the call
in the nature that makes up their parts.

Rewriting took longer than the original writing. Here are the originals. Verse 3: "and tiny feathered features". Verse 8: "of the nature that makes up their parts". Is the result worth the changes from these?

Monday, January 18, 2021

You Can't Trust A Cat!

My elder son, Jaeuk, was seated near our younger cat, Scat, when the creature reached out a paw and with un-retracted claws scratched Jaeuk in the face. Not a bad scratch, but entirely unprovoked. I therefore composed this poem for my son:

Kitty, Kitty

Cats are mysterious creatures.
They look like they're made of fluff
and tiny feathered features
that furnish their inner stuff.

But they're red in truth and all
of the vicious carnivore arts.
And they hear the wild of the call
of the nature that makes up their parts.

I wrote it in half an hour, approximately.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

That's Hymenoptera, Not Hymenopera!

Bee Thy Self

Since they sting
with that thing,
what sex scene
to be queen!

And entomology, not etymology!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Pandemic Changed My Life!

Got into heavy drinking because of the lockdown. The huge quantities of alcohol I started imbibing immediately blocked my research and writing. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't remember what I'd just read. I couldn't come up with new ideas. I couldn't write a single word.

I knew I couldn't go on that way. More drinking would mean no more thinking. I therefore focused my faculties and settled on the decision that has made me the man I am today.

I succeeded in no more thinking.

Friday, January 15, 2021

When Folks Say . . .

. . . "I struck an errant key," they speak as if the key moved! But the key wasn't going anywhere. It's stuck in one place. Those folks just can't type.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Being the life of the party can be the death of you . . .

As a light anecdote by Gabriel Byrne on how he happened to reach a significant decision that changed his life for the better, he tells of awakening one morning in an unfamiliar bed beside an unfamiliar woman in an unfamiliar room with one eye swollen shut, a tooth missing, and no recollection of anything that could explain the unfamiliar circumstances in which he found himself.

He decided to stop drinking.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

An Errant Key?

According to Sarah Lyall, writing for the NYT (January 7, 2021), as Gabriel Byrne "was putting the final touches on his memoir, . . . he struck an errant key on his laptop":

Poof! The screen went blank. 

Byrne was devastated. Nobody knew how to retrieve the document. Nobody. Apparently.

But really nobody?

Hey, I'm computer illiterate, but even I know that I need only press "Control Z" on my keyboard to get everything back.

Could Byrne's problem still be a problem these days?

Perhaps he really did strike an errant key.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Just because I don't understand "just because" clauses doesn't mean I don't understand how to use "just because" clauses!

I've been thinking about "just because" clauses recently. Why? Just because, that's why. No, don't get up and leave. I'll tell you why. Just because I don't know much about "just because" clauses doesn't mean that I don't think they're important. I do think they're important. I want to know how to explain them so that I can tell my two children how to use them.

Among other reasons . . .

Monday, January 11, 2021

Rise and Shine!

What did the rooster say when it stumbled into the chamber pot one dark early morning? 


(My own joke, but I'm surely not the first to think of it.)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Surprised by the Arkansas Ozarks

For the weekend hard copy of the January 9th through 10th international edition, NYT readers chose 52 places to love in the world, and Arkansas is one of those places, specifically, Northern Arkansas. Here's what Bentonville resident Shaye Anderson had to say about the region:

Northern Arkansas

"There's everything you imagine when you think of an untouched paradise."

There's this little place tucked away in Northern Arkansas called Ponca. Really, it's the whole region around the Buffalo River that has been my Eden and my escape during the pandemic. Untouched, rolling mountains. The foliage is so lush and densely packed that my family has nicknamed it "the broccoli." Even in winter, there's still so much green.

The Buffalo River is less than two hours from Bentonville, and I can't believe I didn’t know about it until recently. I'm sad that I missed out on the opportunity to share it with my father, who died two years ago. He loved the outdoors, and I feel like I'm in the right place -- and at the right time -- when I'm there. It's a place that has allowed me to strengthen my connection to him.

Shaye Anderson is the director of content strategy at a creative agency. She lives in Bentonville, Arkansas.

I want to comment on a couple of things. Ms. Anderson describes the Ozarks as rolling mountains. Actually, they are the eroded remnants of a large plateau. The rock strata are flat and level, so the mountains don't generally roll. They drop at the edges. Also, the mountains are not untouched. The whole Ozarks have been logged over the past 200 years, and one finds no old growth forests. That's why the foliage is thick as broccoli. But give the region a hundred years of no logging, and we'll get back to old growth forests without so much foliage. There isn't much pollution, and the many streams are therefore pure. The Buffalo River watershed is pristine because the land is a protected, National River area.

Incidentally, the river flows west to east and empties into the White River about thirty miles south of my hometown, Salem, Arkansas.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Query on an obscure word

Can anyone identify for me the place "Champmedy" in the third from last line of Stephen Vincent Benét's poem American Names, namely (so to speak), "You may bury my tongue at Champmedy"?

Friday, January 08, 2021

Alexander Hamilton reports on the myths Europeans used to believe about America's climate

"Men admired as profound [European] philosophers . . . have gravely asserted that all animals, and with them the human species, degenerate in America -- that even dogs cease to bark after having breathed a while in our atmosphere."

Thank God for climate change, eh?

“The Federalist No. 11, [24 November 1787],” Founders Online, National Archives.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Benet in The Oxford Book of American Poetry (206)

Since my most recent post on Benet, I've become aware of a  poetry anthology, in the same series, but with the word "Verse" changed to "Poetry":

The Oxford Book of American Poetry

The poems were chosen and edited by David Lehman, assisted by Associate Editor John Brehm for Oxford University Press (2006 Lehman). Lehman tells us that he has restored seven poets:

who were in the Matthiessen canon in 1950 but fell out in 1976: Phelps Putnam, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Elinor Wylie, Stephen Vincent Benet, Karl Shapiro, Amy Lowell, and W.  H. Auden. [xiv]

On page 419, we learn of Benet's life: Stephen Vincent Benet (1898-1943)

Stephen Vincent Benet was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the son of an Army colonel and the grandson of a brigadier general. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice and chose, as judge of the Yale Younger Poets Series, the first books by James Agee and Muriel Rukeyser. (His brother William Rose Benet, who married Elinor Wylie, also won a Pulitzer.) Stephen Vincent Benet remains best known perhaps for his story "The Devil and Daniel Webster." When World War II began, he wrote radio scripts — They Burned the Books, Your Army, Dear Adolf— to further the U.S. war effort.

But Lehman offers only one poem on pages 419-420 as representative of Benet's work:

American Names

I have fallen in love with American names,

The sharp names that never get fat,

The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,

The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,

Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat.


Seine and Piave are silver spoons,

But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn,

There are English counties like hunting-tunes

Played on the keys of a postboy's horn,

But I will remember where I was born.


I will remember Carquinez Straits,

Little French Lick and Lundy's Lane,

The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates

And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane.

I will remember Skunktown Plain.


I will fall in love with a Salem tree

And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz,

I will get me a bottle of Boston sea

And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues.

I am tired of loving a foreign muse.


Rue des Martyrs and Bleeding-Heart-Yard,

Senlis, Pisa, and Blindman's Oast,

It is a magic ghost you guard

But I am sick for a newer ghost,

Harrisburg, Spartanburg, Painted Post.


Henry and John were never so

And Henry and John were always right?

Granted, but when it was time to go

And the tea and the laurels had stood all night,

Did they never watch for Nantucket Light?


I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.

I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.

You may bury my body in Sussex grass,

You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.

I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.


 Page 1088 shows Lehman following copyright law in citing as follows:

Stephen Vincent Benet, "American Names" from Selected Works of Stephen Vincent Benet (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1955). Copyright 1927 by Stephen Vincent Benet, renewed © 1955 by Rosemary Carr Benet. Reprinted with the permission of Brandt and Hochman Literary Agents, Inc.

Lehman's choice of "American Names" is somewhat peculiar, for it's not Benet's best shorter poem, but there it is.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Attitude is the most effective ingredient.

My wife gave me a small packet of what we used to call cough drops. These are menthol, and they self-identify as a cough suppressant slash oral anesthetic. That slash worries me a little. I'd rather not rely too heavily on medicine that employs a slash. Where there's a slash, there's a slasher! Probably slashing away at a microbiological level, doing as much damage as good.

In addition to its medicinal effect, each one of these drops contains a pep talk, actually, several pep talks per drop. Here in alphabetical order are one-liner pep talks that I noticed and collected from a number of individual wrappings as I unwrapped several drops:

Be unstoppable.
Conquer today.
Don't wait to get started.
Dust off and get up.
Elicit a few "wows" today.
Get back in the game.
Get through it.
Go for it.
Go get it!
Hi-five yourself.
Inspire envy.
It's yours for the taking.
Keep your chin up.
Push on!
Put your game face on.
Seize the day.
You can do it and you know it.

Who is being addressed by these  so-called "pep talks"? Adolescents? Teenagers?

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

America's "literary declaration of independence"

Writing for the Washington Post about 43 years ago, Joseph McLellan said:

It was only 140 years ago, half a century after the drafting of the Constitution, that America made its literary declaration of independence in Ralph Waldo Emerson's statement: "We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe." And for the rest of that century, only the greatest writers, chiefly Whitman and Dickinson, managed consistently to make significant statements in a poetic style that was distinctively American.

Joseph McLellan (Assistant Editor of Book World), "Escaping Europe's Courtly Muses," Washington Post (April 17, 1977).

McLellan was a man of many talents. He was music critic for the Washington Post for more than thirty years. He wrote a column on chess and covered world chess matches. He wrote book reviews, as the above quote might imply. He attended White House parties and other society events and covered these in the Post's Style section.

Nota bene: McLellan observes that Stephen Vincent Benét had been justifiably dropped from a recent anthology of American literature. This of course refers to Richard Ellmann's edition, The New Oxford Book of American Verse (Oxford University Press, January 1, 1977) Compared to the older Oxford Book of American Verse (ed. Francis Otto Matthiessen, 1950), Ellmann reduces the space given to Whitman and increases that given to Emily Dickinson. Rightly dropped from the new volume, says McLellan, are Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Lowell, Elinor Wylie, Stephen Vincent Benét, and Karl Shapiro. No reasons are given by McLellan.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Emerson speaks again . . .

Emerson made the following call to revolt against Europe's cultural domination:

"We have listened too long to the Courtly muses of Europe."

In this revolt is included a call to create a distinctly American literature. I'll have more to say about this, perhaps, but you can look ahead by going to the link, which is here: "The American Scholar: An Oration Delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge" (August 31, 1837).

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Among hobgoblins to avoid . . .

Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us in Self-Reliance that:

 A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.--'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.'--Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Emerson implies that the above-mentioned hobgoblin is a big problem . . . only for small minds. But inconsistency is really no bad thing? Because being misunderstood is no bad thing? Well, included among the misunderstood are Socrates and Jesus, and recall what happened to them!

By the way, this Self-Reliance essay just goes on and on . . .

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Life with and without masks

Some readers will recall that I asked my students to write a brief piece on themselves and what they want to achieve in life. I actually asked students both last semester and the current semester to do this since I hadn't gotten to know any of them personally during either semester. Interestingly, students last semester responded more fully. Nearly every student wrote an essay last semester, but only seven out of about seventy students wrote to me this time. I think people are just exhausted. One student openly wished for the Corona crisis to end and for life without masks to come back. She will learn that life is never without masks, but we all know what she's saying because we're saying it, too.

Friday, January 01, 2021

For every effusive friend and many an awful enemy:

Happy New Year 2021!