Helen Keller (1880-1968)

Your eyesight and hearing were gone,
yet you felt just as blithe as a fawn
___when you learned that a word
___could stand for a bird
or the flowers that bloomed in your lawn.

The very first word that you learned
was “water.” Thereafter you yearned
___for more, and then more
___till the letters would pour
from your soul into books, finely turned.

Face the sunshine and you will not see
the shadow, you said, for the key
___to happiness lies
___in kindness. Not eyes
nor ears, but your dreams made you free.

Received an honorable mention in Competition No. 3104 “Take Three” in The Spectator.

 

Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

You could fly while still growing and green,
could repair any flying machine
___by your twenties, and tested
___new rocket planes, crested
the clouds in your bright X-15.

In due course, you were picked for Apollo
(undreamed of by falcon or swallow)
___to land on the moon,
___and to do it quite soon
so the Commies could no more than follow.

You touched the moon’s hide, took a stride,
spoke of steps and of leaps, then all pride
___disappeared as you turned
___toward your planet and learned
that your thumb is precisely as wide!

 

 

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

A young-looking fellow employed
as a patent assessor enjoyed
___experiments done
___in his head—lots of fun
for a purposeful, smart anthropoid.

He rode a light beam, thought of clocks
and a man in a plummeting box,
___but had very cold toes—
___which is just how it goes
when forgetting to bring your wool socks.

Views of gravity, light, time and space
were suddenly new, and his face
___became famed as a lion
___and the stars of Orion
which, unlike his hair, know their place.

 

 

The Wright Brothers

Orville and Wilbur were right
that a flying machine could take flight.
___They spent money and years
___and, while they had fears,
they thought it might work. It just might!

To reach any meaningful height,
their engine, they knew, must be light.
___Then in 1903
___the seabirds would see
an odd and remarkable sight.

Though the ospreys and gulls saw them fly it,
most specialists didn’t quite buy it:
___“How could wings, so unbendable,
___be somehow ascendable?”
Yet they were, and now none can deny it!

 

 

Martin Elster serves as a percussionist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Honors include co-winner of RhymeZone’s 2016 poetry contest, winner of the Thomas Gray Anniversary Poetry Competition 2014, third place in the SFPA’s 2015 poetry contest, and three Pushcart nominations.


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12 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    Very clever rhymes with which to remind us of key events in history. Keep beating your drums and totting your sums, because you have a very receptive audience (readership) here. “[A]scendable,” in the fourth poem, is a wonderful neologism, and that’s what limericks are for. With all due deference to Helen Keller (and I’ve seen the film), you are a true Miracle Worker. For this submission I give you an A+.

    Reply
    • Monty

      I can’t claim to’ve had a long-standing familiarity with the word ‘neologism’; I only became aware of it last year through these pages. But from how I now perceive that word, I must ask you, CB: What is neologistic about the word ‘ascendable’?
      It’s a long-established word (at least in British-English); and it simply means what it says . . ‘able to be ascended’ (eg: an ascendable mountain).

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Monty, the problem is that “ascend” is an intransitive verb. One can ascend, but no one can ascend something, not even in UK English, I think. So “ascendable” makes no sense, except as a neologism. I would like some other competent grammarian to weigh in on this.

      • Amy Foreman

        I’m not a grammarian, but “ascend” can be transitive or intransitive (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/ascend), making “ascendable,” acceptable, and, in my opinion, a terrific companion rhyme for “unbendable.”

        “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:” (Ps. 139:8).

      • Monty

        I’ve got a bit out of my depth, now (trans, intrans?); and also a tad perplexed, after reading that “one can ascend, but one can’t ascend ‘something’”; when we know that one can ascend a mountain, and a mountain is a ‘something’.

        I don’t even know where I am, now. Initially, I was looking no further than . . If a mountain can be climbed, it’s climbable. If it can be scaled, it’s scaleable. If it can be ascended, it’s ascendable. If I’m to now learn that ‘ascendable’ is wrong in that context . . then I really am in trouble.

  2. Mark F. Stone

    Martin, All four poems are very nicely done. I love the Apollo/or swallow rhyme. If I were to intrude on the poems and make suggestionss, I might, in The Wright Brothers poem, change “while” to “although” and “somehow” to “so.” It’s great to see you publishing on SCP!

    Reply
  3. C.B. Anderson

    To Amy & Monty: Yes, one can ascend a mountain, but that does not mean that one has sent a mountain upward. In the poem, “wings” be somehow ascendable, but that never meant that anyone could climb up on wings or push wings to even higher heights. The problem with this construction is deeper than I initially suspected. This knot is in need of serious unraveling, or else we should just forget about it. I now understand that I can ascend a mountain or a ladder, but I would be hard pressed to push either one of them up. In the poem at issue, “ascendable” is used in such a way that defies logic and understanding: No one in his or her right mind would suggest that we ascend wings or that wings themselves possess the power of ascendability.

    Reply
    • Monty

      Well, it took me a while to get there, CB, but I can now see what you’re saying: “How can wings be ascendable?” You’re right: it don’t make sense. In which case, I feel that it was rather generous of you to refer to ‘ascendable’ (in that context) as a neologism. I can’t be as generous; now it’s been pointed-out to me, I can only see the use of ‘ascendable’ as simply wrong.. a case of forcing the diction in order to find a fancy rhyme.

      It’d make a bit – but not much – more sense (diction-wise) if it was slightly tweaked thus:
      How can wings which do not bend
      Be somehow able to ascend?

      Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      You are right, as usual, C.B. I didn’t think about it that way, but you are right. And now I can’t look at it any other way!

      Maybe Martin could substitute another word: one which specifically means “capable of flight” instead of “scaleable.” Possibly a rework of the last three lines, something like:

      “How could humans, incompetent
      Somehow be volitant?
      Yet we were, and now none can deny it!”

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Amy, as I wrote initially, I think “ascendable” is a lovely neologism. Martin’s poems are perfectly good as they stand.

  4. Monty

    . . . and as I wrote initially, how can the word ‘ascendable’ be described as:

    a/ A new word, phrase or doctrine.
    b/ A newly-coined word or expression.
    c/ A relatively recent or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use; but that has not yet been fully accepted into mainstream language.

    (the a, b and c being definitions from three different dictionaries of the word ‘neologism’)

    Reply

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