My Goldfish Has an MFA

Roundel for Gillian

My goldfish has an MFA;
I got official notice just today.
Of course, she cheated all the way,
but, still, my goldfish has her MFA.

She thought about a web-based MBA,
but business ops collapse from day to day
and life is short, art long, they say,
so my goldfish went and got an MFA.

She lipped her food reflectively and played
kiss the finger, flick the tail—
her every motion I’d translate,
and so my goldfish earned her MFA.

Rejections come with every mail;
dejectedly she’ll hang her tail;
her clear shaped world’s just not the rage,
but non-acceptance doesn’t mean you fail.

My goldfish has an MFA;
she thought about a web-based MBA.
She lips her food reflectively and plays;
rejections come with every mail:
“A life in art grows harder by the day,”
they told her where she earned her MFA.


The Firm of Sloth, Lackwit, Poodle and Black

Note: This poem is a sort of roman a clef about my small college, written at the time it decided it had grown into a university and needed the bigger name, but like all good poetry, it is still true, and not just here.

After big changes in the world of small change
(where transition is constant, offices oft re-arrange),
the firm of Sloth, Lackwit and Poodle
knew time had come, and noting the fact,
hired a new partner, whose name was just Black.

They raised all their charges to reflect their new state
(pay for new letterhead, new signs, and new suits),
and continued pursuing their own unique fate.
The statistics informed them, after one year or two,
that they weren’t the only 4-firm in view;

there were three other 4-firms well-known in their state,
the fourth of four 4-firms saw business abate.
Dark clouds descended on S, L, P and B.
They looked upon Black as a real acquisition,
why, then, they wondered, their sorry position?

Now this firm had a history in the world of small change:
They slathered with adjectives and each consequence greased,
in their office each clause independent found itself eased;
the future was mortgaged and sold at a loss,
and all debts to the past were found to be false:

At the firm of Sloth, Lackwit, Poodle and Black
whatever was written was safe from attack.
There was nowhere to go to from their offices, then,
for noun and verb made agreements never to mean
and personal pronouns were not to be seen.

They did a good business in the best of intentions,
awards of excellence, proofs of purchase and honorable mentions,
but more was expected from 4-firms it seems.
(Or less, with more brouhaha: New Year’s Day games in sunny locales,
more bars, bands, entertainments, more residence halls.)

So.  Black went out and did research on the state of the state,
while Poodle and Lackwit guarded the gate.
(Sloth slept in the guardhouse, you know, and he ate.)
They let in only milk-toast and dogs who barked louder,
Sloth’s suits covered crowds, and then crowder.

But none of them, nor all together, could think of one reason,
and business kept falling and falling and falling, and then,
late in the day meeting in a cold winter season,
the long window made mirror by fast falling night,
Sloth, Lackwit, Poodle and Black looked up and took fright:

Could that be the reason?  There—out of doors—
a neighborhood made up of brute beasts and boors?
Inspired, immediately new plans commenced:
For real improvement the grounds should be fenced.


Gene Fendt teaches philosophy at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.  He has won awards for both his research in philosophy and his poetry, but the best thing about both is the writing.

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