The Transatlantic Serpent’s Tale

Do you recall the time when I was born?
A time of ferment—Honest Abe was dead.
The Civil War had left the country torn,
But did not stop the fateful push ahead.
‘Twas then some bold, ambitious men were led
To send a steamer through the ocean brine,
To lay the first communication line.

From Ireland’s shores began the epic trip
To drop a cable into the oceans’ keep.
Thus sired by sweating sailors aboard the ship
Who midwifed the boat and laid me down to sleep,
I slithered like an eel into the deep.
And when the land of Newfoundland was found
The captain proudly brought my tail aground.

A dozen years, the crew had worked, inspired.
By national will such labor and money was spent.
The captain penned the very first message wired:
“All’s well, Thank God, the cable is laid!” he sent.
With poems and songs they cheered the noble event.
And here I have lain since the days of the Civil War.
At first I was famous, but now I’m remembered no more.



On The Cafe Patio

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

—from “We Wear the Mask”, by Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1913

I visited a street cafe,
and took a table by the tree
where nobody would notice me.
I wore my usual mask that day.

At length the heedless waiter came.
The blowing of the autumn air
set shadows dancing everywhere
like some uncanny woodland game.

A book of poems held me in thrall.
I lingered in that peaceful place
to start to map the inward space
uncovered by some poet’s scrawl.

I sipped my coffee, had some food,
like other diners sitting near.
The poet’s riddles in my ear
set me in a bewildered mood.

The cafe faded from my sight.
I drifted in poetic trance,
then, drawing near in a mystic dance
a vast mosaic came to light.

Its colored pieces always fell
in place to form a perfect world
for just a moment, then were hurled
into a cosmic, swirling well.

This happens everywhere I go.
Sometimes some one will raise a brow,
but no one seems to notice now,
here on this cafe patio.



Glenn Turner is a retired man in Southern California. Mostly self-taught in poetry, he enjoys practicing the traditional forms, and inspiring the reader. He has written a variety of poems including ballads and humorous doggerel. He edited the newsletter for the Ventura County Writing Club for awhile a few years ago. 

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9 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    I enjoyed them both and found them both very thought-provoking.
    “On the Cafe Patio” captures for me the bewilderment of our present reality and, I guess, the unreality of it all.

  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    The 1st person POV in the cable poem is a nice conceit. The Introdiction of more and more “extra” syllables after the 1st stanza seemed almost an analogy for the ever lengthening cable.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Or, perhaps the extra syllables are simply the result of failing to keep track of the metrical feet. This is fixable. If in S3 L2 “in” had been used instead of “into,” and in S3 L3 “on” had been used instead of “aboard,” some of this would have been easily avoided. We are told not to count syllables, but counting feet is another matter.

  3. Joe Tessitore

    The Weeping Willow

    The weeping willow bowed her head
    So none could see the tears she shed
    Nor ascertain just why she wept
    Nor share the hidden pain she kept.

    Then on a blanket spread beneath
    A mother wove a willow wreath
    And gave it to her little child
    And then the weeping willow smiled.

    Happy Mothers Day

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, this is simply beautiful. It puts me and Mike in mind of Trees by Joyce Kilmer… only better.

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    The use of Dunbar’s poem from We Wear the Mask as an inspiration for commentary on our current predicament prompts this question: Why hasn’t anybody used Hawthorne’s powerful short story “The Minister’s Black Veil” as a similar inspiration?

  5. Rob Crisell

    I really enjoyed both these poems, especially On the Cafe Patio. As imbibers of poetry, we’ve all had an experience similar to that described in that poem.

  6. David Watt

    ‘On The Cafe Patio’ is my favorite of the these two distinctive poems. To read poetry in public is indeed likely to raise the odd eyebrow these days.

  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    On The Café Patio is magical. I can feel the autumn breeze and the see the poetry book with its words rising up to form a new and “perfect world” … for “just a moment”. Wonderful words have me playing a part in mysterious new surrounds on many an occasion – they’re my masked salvation. A marvelous read, indeed.


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