Poetry For The Common Man

No wonder poetry won’t sell,
Since authors write it for themselves;
And most of it would fare as well
On dark and dusty warehouse shelves.
Such work is crammed with metaphor,
Emboldened narcissistic pap
The poet world claims to adore,
While others claim it makes them nap.
Fie on this arcane disconnect
That is so often justified
By poets who try to perfect
Some lines that they should try to hide.
If comprehension is a chore
And meaning hidden far too deep,
The poem becomes a crashing bore,
A guarantee of sudden sleep.
Forget the fact there’s little said
That would inspire a second look
By readers who will choose instead
Selections from another book.
So if you want to sell your works
Write something less ambiguous,
Forget the esoteric perks
And make us laugh or cry or cuss.


To Have and Hold

I’ll have my cake

      and eat it too,

which seems the

      proper thing to do;

for what is cake

      except to eat?

Just having it

      is not a treat.

Now it’s a fact

      we’re told is true,

you can’t have cake

      and eat it too.

But if there is

      a choice to make,

hold on to yours,

      I’ll eat my cake.



Tennyson thought it better
“to have loved and lost, than…”
Well, you know the rest.
Of course this begs the question
most of us can only guess.
Is losing ever really good,
or is this just poetic?
I know when I have lost at love
I’ve always felt pathetic.
But when the pangs of my desires
make my insides a jumble,
I leap beyond the galaxies…
Inevitably I tumble.
For love is an illusion and a
gross exaggeration;
when viewed upon the scale of lust
it’s just imagination.
So if we never love at all
what does no effort cost?
How could we know the loss of love
if we have never lost?
But if we love and lose, no pain
could rend our teardrops wetter.
So thank you, Mr. Tennyson,
but words don’t make things better.


His Own Petard

My buddy Pete and I once found
An old firecracker on the ground
And felt it had potential we could share.
For study hall had just begun
And we, at fifteen, thought it fun
To saddle our friend Jimmy with a dare.

“Come on,” we cried, “just light the fuse.
You’d be a chicken to refuse.
Not doing it would make you a disgrace.”
Now he was not the brightest lad
And in the past he had been had,
So there was hesitation on his face.

For only fifty feet away
Our teacher Doyle did rule the day,
But she was occupied with some demand.
So with a grin Jim grabbed our toy,
And lit the fuse with utter joy;
Then sparks began to fly from his right hand.

Some other students saw the glow
As Jimmy sought a place to throw
The cracker, knowing Doyle was coming fast.
But indecision reared its head
And Jimmy felt such frightful dread
That he, in frantic panic clutched the blast.

Throughout the school the boom was heard
As every student got the word
About how Jimmy’s fist had just exploded.
His blackened fingers opened wide
Revealing proof he could not hide,
And Doyle, to this new task seemed most devoted.

“Jimmy, did you do that?” she said.
With teary eyes he shook his head,
“No, ma’am,” he uttered meekly and in pain.
Astonished she could but reply,
“How could you tell me such a lie?”
As he in silent pity did remain.

She turned and glared at Pete and me,
Our inner laughter not to see,
As she led Jimmy off with due regard.
But when the two were out of sight
We laughed aloud with all our might,
Proclaiming Jimmy was his own petard.

Now from this tale a moral take,
And by its message not forsake
An axiom that holds you in good stead.
If good friends proposition you
By daring what you should not do,
Just walk away or bop them on the head.


The Last Wildflower

Spring showers simply did not fall.
A hot south wind sustained.
And we were captured in the thrall
Of summer’s brutal reign.
Our number, which had blossomed fair
In such a vast array,
Began to shrivel in despair,
Then die and fall away.
And that soft beauty we had brought
To this indurate land,
Remained but a decaying thought,
A mulch by Nature’s hand.
Now I alone await the end
From which I will not cower;
Fragrant and bright, I will not bend.
I am the last wildflower.



Don Shook, past president of the Fort Worth Poetry Society, was also founder and head of The Actors Company, one of the nation’s leading theater companies. He is a writer, actor, director and producer who has worked with such stars as Dick Clark, Cybil Shepherd, Debbie Reynolds and Betty Buckley.  Formerly with NBC in New York, he has performed in theatre, film and television across the country including an opera performance at Carnegie Hall, New York City and five years as a resident performer at Casa Manana Musicals in Fort Worth.  He is the author of a recently published novel “Bluehole” and two poetry books, “Sheep Got Teeth” and “Sheep Got Teeth Too”, and was selected as 2009 Senior Poet Laureate of Texas.

These poems are among the entries for the Society of Classical Poets’ 2012 Poetry Competition.

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One Response

  1. neal Whitman


    All here good – really good – poems that practice what you preach in “Poetry for the Common Man.” May I add, in total agreement with you, my wish for a bookshop where I can buy what you are selling …

    The Common Reader Bookshop

    was established with one aim:

    to establish a practical relation

    between Poetry and Public

    Our specialty is Contemp. Poetry.

    No Contempt Poetry allowed
    Amicus poeticae,

    Neal Whitman


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