with apologies to Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A creature horrid as a flea.

A flea who makes a little nest
Inside the fur of doggy’s chest;

That treats us like a free buffet,
Sucks our blood, then jumps away;

A flea whose bites cause us to swear;
That spreads diseases everywhere;

Inside our skin its eggs have lain;
It seems to like inflicting pain.

I wish that God had checked with me
Before he chose to make a flea.



The Toad Not Taken

with apologies to Robert Frost

Two toads emerged from a yellow wood
And stared at me as my pace did slow.
All alone upon the trail I stood
And gazed at them as long as I could,
My amazement beginning to grow.

One wore red sunglasses and a vest
On which hung bright pins of every kind.
A thick, gold chain lay across his chest
Adorned with a jewel-encrusted crest.
His dreadful outfit troubled my mind.

The other toad was a more tasteful sight:
He wore simple, plain, and handsome dress.
His jeans were blue, his shirt plain and white.
There was no decoration that might
Compare to his tacky friend’s excess.

“I want a pet,” I said with a sigh,
For I knew that two pets made no sense.
Two toads by a yellow wood, and I—
I took one I was less dazzled by,
And that has made all the difference.



Rob Crisell is a writer, actor, teacher, and attorney in Temecula. After two decades in publishing, national non-profit work, law, and commercial real estate, he’s now a full-time writer, actor, and educator. He is an outside instructor with the Murrieta Valley Union School District where he teaches poetry and Shakespeare. He also teaches at St. Jeanne de Lestonnac School and other area schools on behalf of Shakespeare in the Vines (SITV). He runs SITV’s annual high school monologue competition, which he began in 2013. Currently, he is playing Iago in SITV’s August production of Othello. He’s the author/actor of Red, White & Bard! A Celebration of Shakespeare in America and Hamlet’s Guide to Happiness: 7 Life Lessons from the Greatest Play Ever Written, one-man shows he has performed for SITV, schools, and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He’s a graduate of Yale University and George Mason University Law School. He lives in Temecula with his wife and their two children.

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10 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    I believe the author’s name should be given as Crisell, not Crisnell.

  2. David Paul Behrens

    ‘Fleas’ reminds me of a book by Mark Twain, called ‘Letters From the Earth’, wherein he questions, among other things, why God created the fly.

    These poems were much fun and enjoyable to read!

  3. James A. Tweedie

    Mr. Crisell,

    After watching your TED talk video (which I enjoyed–especially your admonition that Shakespeare’s plays were written to be performed before an audience (which is where they truly “come alive”) rather than simply read) the most lasting image I carried away was your contagious smile! I see that smile reflected in these two poems.

    Both your TED talk and the poems remind me of what Peter Ustinov once said about humor: “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”

    Not to mention that you’ve also rewritten the meaning of the phrase, “Here’s spit in your eye!”

    • Rob Crisell

      So glad you liked the TED talk. I agree with Ustinov (and you) about comedy. “Poison in jest” as the Bard says. And I finally decided the spitting thing was a bit TOO exciting for a group of teenagers, though I still start most of my talks with Shylock. Thanks

  4. Brent Pallas

    Nicely done with wit and craft and most of all brevity. I went to, I believe, it was the 50th anniversary of POETRY magazine. There were several well-known poets on the stage with then editor Joseph Parisi. They all read from their work and others. But at one point I remember Parisi said we’ll now read probably one of the most popular poems that ever appeared in POETRY. Guess what it was TREES.

    • Rob Crisell

      Very cool. Thanks for sharing. “Trees” is so simple, such a contagious rhyme and meter, like a prayer. In my classes, I read Kilmer’s and then, if I feel like lightening the mood, mine.


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