The above photographs were taken and submitted by New York City poet Joe Tessitore. We invite readers to pick one of the images (or both) and write a poem. Post your poem in the comments section below.

 

 


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38 Responses

  1. Alex Andy Phuong

    “Being”

    People do what they do
    Some animals live in a zoo
    Some human beings forget
    That they are animals, too
    Unite humanity
    To create a better world

    Reply
  2. Joe Tessitore

    See ‘Em at the Museum

    Boys poised,
    side by side.
    Chests protruding,
    strength exuding.
    Flesh and bone
    and wrought in stone.
    I caught ‘em both
    on my I Phone.

    Jungle King

    The king waits for the bus.
    What is there to discuss?
    I think I’ll take a cab.

    Reply
    • Monty

      Regarding the title of your above poem, Joe: you (and others) may or may not wish to know that the words “see ‘em” and “museum” were once used (ingeniously, I thought) as a rhyme by Joni Mitchell in her ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ (in which she tells us of a wooded area – real or imagined: it makes no difference – which’d been annihilated to make way for a new car-park).

      They took all the trees
      And put ‘em in a tree museum;
      And they charged the people
      A dollar-an’-a-half just to see ‘em!

      Don’t it always seem to go
      That ya don’t know what ya’v got
      Till it’s gone . . .
      They paved paradise,
      An’ put up a parking-lot.

      Reply
  3. Alan

    The Concrete Jungle

    The “concrete jungle” used to be a name
    That humans used to represent their place,
    But lions might not want to play our game.

    Not one to cage, not one to ever tame,
    So who will be the prey and who will chase?
    The “concrete jungle” used to be a name.

    If beasts returned to town, would they reclaim
    Their land and leave our homes without a trace?
    The lions might not want to play our game.

    If soon the trees and growing vines became
    Our masters, could we match their rapid pace?
    The “concrete jungle” used to be a name.

    What will become of all this burning flame?
    Will time run out or will we face disgrace?
    The lions might not want to play our game.

    One thing that we must here and now proclaim:
    We humans aren’t the only living race;
    The “concrete jungle” used to be a name,
    But lions might not want to play our game.

    Reply
  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    The great Assyrian Lamassu
    Right next to the cleaning crew.

    A lion on a New York Street
    Looking somewhat bushed by heat.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Joseph, I was tempted to respond to these prompts, but I don’t see how I could top your contributions.

      Reply
  5. Angel L Villanueva

    Seeking To Devour

    Do not ignore his frightful roar,
    But quickly strive to shut your door,
    For he will seek your faith to raze,
    To make you leave what you adore.

    A master hunter in his ways,
    With avid eyes he waits for preys.
    But keep your senses and perceive
    The traps he lays to end your days.

    Reply
  6. Gerald Weeks

    Standing tall, flesh or rock, erect, yet to expect the living or hewn as alter ego’s adjacent; they exhibit no inhibit as sentinels old and recent, so no time is told for the young and old, no rhyme or reason is nascent.

    Reply
  7. James A. Tweedie

    A famous sculptor hired me to pose.
    He’s good at what he does, so I have heard.
    I think he did a nice job with my nose,
    But really messed up big time on the beard.

    He gave me wings, a tail, and hooves as well.
    But even so, I think that you’ll agree
    That looking at it closely you can tell
    The finished statue looks a lot like me!

    *****

    A mascot in the NFL
    Should be a happy guy.
    But if you’re from Detroit, oh well,
    You hang your head and cry.

    Reply
  8. David Watt

    Ahead of Their Time

    In Mesopotamia long ago
    Science was primitive, so they say,
    Lacking in splicing or G.M.O.

    But Lamassu’s features, by light of day,
    Lead me to ponder how they could grow
    Creatures as mixed as a stand-up buffet.

    Reply
  9. David Watt

    Oh For a Lion

    I wish I had a lion!
    I’d keep it in the street
    To frighten all the passers-by
    And hunt its own fresh meat.

    But when the landlord called,
    My lion would be there
    To catch him wholly unawares,
    And chase him down the stair.

    Reply
  10. Shari Jo LeKane

    The lion forever changes its mane,
    a sign of growth, strength, adaptability,
    lifelong learning, character and wisdom
    gained through a lifetime of experience.

    The lion knows
    how to pick its battles,
    what is worth defending for the pride,
    for the sake of survival,
    for the sake of love and loyalty,
    and ultimately,
    when to simply walk away.

    Reply
  11. Sally Cook

    .

    Tiger, tiger in my sight,
    .Striped, just like a honey bee
    In deepest black and golden yellow.
    One nasty sting, or awful bite
    Prove neither is a friendly fellow.

    Reply
  12. peter venable

    Martin Luther King came not as a sphinx
    But as a prophet, to break racial caste
    And to change the lies humanity thinks:
    “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

    Reply
    • Monty

      That’s an imaginative interpretation of the above photo . . as well as being a nice (and true) sentiment.
      Well interpreted.

      Reply
  13. Martin Elster

    The Lion of the City

    The lion of the city came to feed
    at night on sounds of trains and taxi honks,
    the stench of pee and trash. He had no need
    to hang with friends at the big zoo in the Bronx.

    The lion of the city, belly grumbling,
    padded on velvet paws along the street
    and, echoing his belly, trains were rumbling
    under the jungle fashioned of concrete.

    The lion of the island of Manhattan,
    lapping dirty water from the gutter,
    was gifted with a mane no other cat in
    the world enjoyed. Unconscious of the clutter

    of buses, cars, and feet, carrying laughter
    and grief and rage and multitudes of moods,
    this feline fugitive — what was he after?
    Wildebeest do not like these latitudes.

    Take pity on the lion of the city!
    Anon he was detected by the warden.
    The lion of the city was no kitty.
    Anon he was surrounded by a cordon.

    The people of the city watched the lion.
    They watched him crouch and heard him snarl and growl,
    smelled fear and thought, “He soon will be in Zion.
    This place is no place for big cats to prowl.”

    He heard the shot. His ears began to ring.
    He felt a stab of pain and then of sorrow
    for those who didn’t reckon him the king
    of beasts from Nuka Hiva to Kilimanjaro.

    The towers and lights and witnesses went dark.
    Dreaming of lionesses and gazelle,
    he lumbers round the grasslands of the park
    or lazes under beeches, bored to hell.

    The people watch the lion at the zoo.
    They’ve come from Brooklyn or Louisiana,
    exclaiming, “That’s a lion through and through,”
    imagining him roaming the savanna.

    Reply
  14. C.B. Anderson

    How sad it is when kings must stoop
    Before an urban gutter filled with poop.

    You see it in that noble feline’s eyes
    That pride’s the first entitlement that dies.

    Reply
  15. C.B. Anderson

    Corrected version:

    How sad it is when mighty kings must stoop
    Before an urban gutter filled with poop.

    You see it in that noble feline’s eyes,
    That pride’s the first entitlement that dies.

    Reply
  16. Amy

    God or Man?

    “God or Man?” he asks of me,
    “That truth of which I’m told.
    Tell me if you can,” says he,
    “Which path does lead to gold?”

    “Of riches internal or outwards?” I ask.
    “Of wealth overflowing or small?”
    “Of that which will flower this desert” says he,
    “Of that which births roads from a wall.”

    “Of roads with the eye or the soul?” I reply.

    “Whichever will guide me to grace,”
    he says as he turns to the tourist and sighs,
    “Of that which will find me a face.”

    “What makes an empire?” I ask of the man.
    “A leader” says he, with a grin.
    “But what makes one lasting and loved throughout time?”
    “Their heart” he replies as a win.

    “But how are you sure if it’s good or it’s ill?”

    “By my own” he replies with a bend.

    “But what if your own is defective, my dear? Just how will you know what will mend?”

    He thought upon these questions,
    then turned to me and said,
    “Why do we call bread broken,
    when through its tear, we’re fed?
    If plurals build on singulars,
    and truth does set men free
    to break the flesh’s fetters,
    might man’s letters hold the key?”

    “You ask a crucial question, which my return’s, “Because-
    how can we have a word which ‘is’, if something never ‘was’?”

    “To build upon a form,” says he,
    “A true form must exist,
    for stories, songs, and artist’s hands,
    to undertake this twist.”

    He motions to a statue,
    and to this I do reply,
    “Wise is he, whose soul can see the wings by which it flies.”

    “God or Man?” I ask of him
    who laughs and takes my hand.
    “Now I see the path ahead,
    and know on which I stand.”

    Reply
    • Monty

      What an unusual poem, Amy. It’s very well-written . . and in a way which holds the reader’s attention till the end.
      Well played.

      Reply
  17. AJK

    Some people
    say it’s
    a jungle out there, but I am
    a fearless fighter.
    No matter
    what gets in my way—
    I will break through.

    Reply
  18. Mia

    Visiting the Zoo

    Have I missed the bus
    should I wait here,
    Will there be another one?
    Is this water safe to drink,
    Looks like someone’s left a tap open,
    It is water isn’t it?
    The cabs have disappeared,
    It is obviously not a night to be out,
    Go on then, take a selfie of my night on the tiles
    I don’t think I’ll be back any time soon,
    Call this a place to live?
    Why they’ve killed everything green
    and man used to think he was king-
    building grey castles of concrete
    for his own convenience
    monumental tombs,
    for colossal fools.

    Reply
  19. Mia

    A Lion Weeps

    No, I am no longer angry
    And certainly not glad or contemptuous
    Just extremely forlorn,
    For I could no longer protect them
    The situation untenable,
    There was nowhere left to live and
    The water unsafe to drink

    But the only consolation
    Is that they’ve been brought down,
    Not by elephants, lions or tigers,
    But by a microscopic virus
    called- The Crown

    What could I have done?
    When they covered the world with concrete,
    So much so, attempting to make images of me
    that it encased their hearts and feet.

    They might have lived in peace
    But they were deliberately obtuse,
    -Forgive them for they know not what they do?
    In the twenty first century?
    Ignorance could no longer serve as an excuse.

    Reply
    • Monty

      I don’t care much for your style of poetry, Mia: but I find myself mildly intrigued with the things you’re saying.. and the intentionally minimalistic way in which you say them. There are so many lines in the above two pieces which, individually, are perfectly ambiguous. Some will say that the use of ambiguity is a poet’s prerogative, and others may say that if a poet strays too far into ambiguity, it starts leaning towards the abstract. My own feelings on the matter are mixed; I’m not sure where a line should be drawn . . and I’m not sure if a line even NEEDS to be drawn.

      Reply
      • Mia

        Thank you so much for your comment. It is so helpful for me that you find the poems ambiguous. They are not intentionally so however. Absolutely not and therefore your comment has helped me to try and see them in a new light.
        I have found the images so amazing and found myself really almost compelled to write. It is a shame that I am not able to do the images justice though. My feeble excuse is that English is my second language and as that it is probably so for many people and I learnt English a long time ago, is not an excuse I can use much.
        But I find that somehow it influences my writing.

        I also wanted to explain that they are both from the point of view of a lion and how it might feel about human beings.
        I do not have the same feelings that might come across in the poem however. Perhaps that is where the ambiguity is.

        Again thank you, I will try and think more from the point of view of the reader rather than taking it for granted that the meaning is clear.

  20. Mia

    It has worked. Now I don’t care much for my style of writing either!
    If I could delete them I would.

    Reply
    • Monty

      You misread my last missive, Mia: I never mentioned your “style of writing”. In actual fact, after I started reading the ‘Zoo’ piece, it was your very “style of writing” which compelled me to continue reading till the end; and which subsequently compelled me to read the ‘Lion’ piece.

      What I actually said was: “I don’t care much for your style of poetry”.. which has got nothing to do with your “style of writing” – they’re two separate things. By “style of poetry”, I was referring to the fact that both of your pieces resembled poetry only in the sense that they were written in lines, and each line started with a capital letter. Other than that, there were no rhymes; none of the lines were of equal length; and they both contained a few grammatical errors. To me, they were both akin to ‘free verse’.. a style of poetry which I haven’t got any time for . . hence my admission that “I don’t care much for your style of poetry”.

      But your “style of writing” intrigued me. For a start, it’s unusual to see a piece (‘Zoo’) in which the first four lines are four individual questions (for which, there should be a question-mark after each of the four lines).. but why not? I think it’s a novel way to start a poem if the questions act as an entry into the rest of the piece. I also found it unusual that the piece was written, more or less, in individual lines; and that some of the lines bore no relevance to the line before or after. That’s why I assumed you were being intentionally ambiguous or minimalistic.

      If you’re now saying that the ambiguity wasn’t intentional, then I’ll attempt to show you how it was, none the less, the epitome of ambiguity. Let’s start with the title: ‘Visiting The Zoo. I realise that this title doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the poem should be explicitly about visiting a zoo; but it’s safe to suppose that that’s what a reader would infer. Thus, we’ve got a 17-line poem titled ‘Visiting The Zoo’ . . and yet not one single line has any inference at all to visiting a zoo! Indeed, the very first line: “Have I missed the bus” might leave the reader wondering if the title should instead be: ‘After Visiting The Zoo’ (and I’m now waiting for the bus home). In another line we have: “..not a night to be out” – which might leave a reader thinking: ‘But zoo-visits are generally daytime things’; and then another line saying: “..take a selfie of my night on the tiles.” – which would surely puzzle most readers into wondering: ‘Is this a poem about someone visiting a zoo; or is it a poem about someone’s night on the tiles?’ D’you see what I’m saying, Mia? There’s no base for the reader to discern what the poem’s actually about; at least not until L12: “..they’ve killed everything green”: at which point the reader may suddenly think: ‘Ah, perhaps it’s an environmental poem.. in which case all the previous lines make even less sense’. Also in the same line: “..they have killed . . “ – who is “they”? There’s nothing before that line to indicate to the reader who “they” is. Does “they” refer to Man in general? Or does it refer to some particular developers who’ve concreted over some grass at a certain location? This is what I mean when I say ambiguous.

      There are similar ambiguities in the ‘Lion’ piece: L4.. “I could no longer protect them” – who is “them”? The reader may infer that the “them” refers to lions, owing to the title, but they can’t be sure! In L9.. “They’ve been brought down” . . again, who is “they”? Is it Man? Also, the two uses of the word “they” in lines 17-18:
      “THEY might’ve lived in peace.
      But THEY were deliberately obtuse.”
      Do both of the “theys” refer to lions? Do both of the “theys” refer to Man? Or does the first “they” refer to lions, and the second “they” to man? Can you see what I’m saying, Mia: it’s ambiguity in its purest form.

      I will say that the ‘Lion’ piece was a lot more clearer to the reader as to what the subject-matter may be; but you must help the reader to keep a grip on different aspects of the poem. You said as much yourself in your last missive: “I will try to think more from the point of view of the reader, rather than take it for granted that the meaning is clear.” That’s it in a nutshell. It’s such an easy and common mistake for an author to make: “The meaning is clear to me, so I assume it’ll be clear to the reader.” It’s not always the case.

      I implore you to banish any thoughts of “deleting” both pieces. Like I said initially, I was intrigued with what you were trying to say in both pieces; it was evident to me that they were both heartfelt pieces – written with genuine feeling and concern – and I was able to empathise immediately with your concerns. I’ve suggested previously on these pages that the ideal reason for one to write a poem is . . “A sentiment deeply felt by the author, which they wish to convey to others”. That is exactly what you’ve done with your two pieces above, Mia; and for that reason alone, they don’t deserve to be deleted! They just need to be revised or modified. And if you care to take such action, I’d be interested to see the results.

      p.s. Regarding the two lines you wrote:
      “Why, they’ve killed everything green”
      “When they covered the world with concrete”
      . . . if you wanna know how much I empathised with those words, look above and find Joe Tessitore’s poem earlier in this thread called: ‘See ‘Em at the Museum’ . . under which I made a comment pertaining to his title. Read that comment . .

      Reply
      • Mia

        I feel so privileged to get such feedback. I cannot thank you enough.
        I will read it over again because I do tend to make a lot of mistakes when I am writing or reading at certain times. Not always but sometimes. Such as misreading your comment. But I hope I have conveyed how much I appreciate you taking the time to comment and in such a thoughtful way. It has already helped me immensely.

      • Monty

        That’s what these pages are for, Mia. I myself have learnt a lot about the inner-workings of poetry since joining SCP.

  21. Mia

    I know I am taking a risk, but I hope this one is better.

    I caught a glimpse of Aslan once,
    Padding softly, quietly, humbly,
    Through the dark New York city streets,
    When the whole city slumbered
    In a plethora of dreams.

    He was worn-out and weary,
    But still he strove his strength to give,
    To the precious souls asleeping
    waiting for the dawn to sing.

    And I stretched out my hand to touch him,
    but I found I could not reach,
    And he looked at me with languor
    Though his piercing eyes implored,
    Follow me, but remember, just remember,
    The decision must be yours.

    And I stretched out my hand to touch him,
    But I found I could not reach,
    For the obstacles before me,
    Formed a wall I could not breach.

    Reply
    • Monty

      The last stanza is really nice, Mia, really poetic. If I may use that stanza to make a few suggestions as to how the lines could be made more equal in length:

      “(And) I stretched out (my hand) to touch him” . .
      the ‘and’ is not necessary; and you don’t need to say ‘my hand’: the reader will know that you’re referring to your hand, ‘coz when we stretch out to touch something, we generally only do so with our hand, not any other part of the body.

      “But (I) found I could not reach” . .
      the first ‘I’ isn’t wrong, but it’s unnecessary. The line reads exactly the same with or without the first ‘I’. Writing poetry is all about word-economy, to use the fewest words to say the most.

      The above suggestions would enable the stanza to read as follows, with three lines out of the four containing an equal amount of syllables (notice how much neater a poem looks on the page when the lines are more or less equal in length):

      I stretched out to touch him,
      But found I could not reach;
      The obstacles before me formed
      A wall I could not breach.

      Reply
      • Mia

        Thank you for showing me how editing a few words can make such a difference. Also your earlier comment helped to write a third poem and I am really pleased with it.
        I read your comment about the Joni Mitchell song earlier before you mentioned it. I did not have the courage to comment that I know that song as it used to play over in my head, if that is the correct phrase.
        Today I watched a tree across the road from me being cut down. It was perhaps 100 years old and I am in total shock. We certainly don’t know what we’ve got till its gone!

        I would like to thank you and the Society of Classical poets. I am so impressed with the focus on classical poetry and the need for accuracy. I think we have at times lost that elsewhere and some have become comfortable with a free verse approach. It wasn’t your comment you see that made me want to delete them.
        I am really not a fan of free verse!
        I think, ‘Would like to have done a lot better’, may be a good epitaph for me!

      • Monty

        A better epitaph might read: “I subsequently done a lot better”.

  22. Mia

    Thank you Monty.
    I think that the news being all doom and gloom has affected me. At first I tried to make light hearted jokes about the corona virus thinking that it would be just like any other cold or flu. Or was just melodramatic about it. How I wish I hadn’t !Let us still hope that it is all greatly exaggerated however.
    So now I am gaining a little perspective.
    I would like to send to you and to everyone reading this my very best wishes and hope that everything will return to normal in every country soon.

    Best wishes
    Mia

    PS I have tried to rewrite the first two poems so they make better sense but I have been unsuccessful. I think they have served their purpose in another way though and so I am very grateful for that.
    Can’t wait for more photographs!

    Reply
    • Monty

      You don’t have to wait for more photographs in order to write things, Mia; you can draw from your own thoughts and feelings.

      Reply
  23. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Urban Lion

    Beneath its gilt the golden city’s red in tooth and claw;
    threat sneaks and seeks in bleak back streets on velvet, padding paw.

    When bustling bistros close and broadway shows bolt up each door,
    that’s when the purring prowlers prey and pounce and pierce and roar.

    The broke succumb to hunger as it gnaws their homeless bones.
    The thieves unsheathe their feral as they ravage lavish homes.

    The feline sirens sell blue spells to death in red light zones,
    as kings of concrete jungles spring from brutish, moon-kissed thrones.

    Reply
  24. Leo

    Turnaround

    Well, well, look at this – we have here two examples
    Of how men sometimes see themselves:
    The present-day hipster, careful to look careless,
    With clothes hand-picked from electronic shelves,

    And next to him “mighty” King Nebudchanazzar
    (Of distant Babylonian fame)
    Who grandly had himself memorialized in stone
    As some kind of weird hybrid. How lame.

    Why the king couldn’t be rendered in realism
    -Accurately- I’ll hazard a guess:
    I question King Nebudchannazar’s sanity.
    Was he crazy? The answer is “Yes.”

    But, this imagery had a deeper meaning;
    As a narcissist indeed, he wished to crow
    About strengths that he falsely believed that he had
    Which a mere human form could never show.

    The wings were an eagle’s, meant to convey
    Authority from On High to look down,
    But the body of this chiseled, stony beast
    Is one for which I have been renown.

    As the lone lion, loose and lurking on these pages,
    I take issue with this misappropriating.
    Yes, I know the statue is thousands of years old,
    But hipsters through the ages are who I’m hating.

    Obviously, Nebudchanazzar thought that he
    Was also as powerful as a lion,
    But that young hipster, striving to seem statuesque,
    Sees a likeness. Get real, dude. You, too, are lyin’.

    Through the eons, from Noah to Nebudchanazzar to now,
    Encroachment on my turf affects the pride.
    Hipsters, trying hard to look cool, bring firepower,
    And smile with corpses. With this, I won’t abide.

    Now, I have been entitled, as “The King Of The Jungle,”
    To the jungle; it is my right and regal lair.
    Big cities and small towns are where human stink belongs.
    Why, oh why, can’t humans just stay there?

    I shake my head. I know that my own harsh imagery here
    Is unsettling, but your visits must be discouraged.
    If I am the King, than I must say something,
    Death in my ranks gets me MADLY ENRAGED…

    ROOOAARRR!!

    I’ve had ENOUGH! TWO can play at this game…
    I’m gonna pay your hamlet a visit.
    I have some “appropriating” to do of my own.
    “Turnaround is fair play” – or is it?

    Reply

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