All of the below poems were read on May 31, 2020 at The Society of Classical Poets Symposium, which was held online due to the pandemic. Below are poems from Session II.

 

Bad Move

by Rob Crisell

The sun is out this afternoon—
There’s not a cloud up in the sky.
But I’ve been trapped at home since June.
I’ll now explain the reason why:

Outside it’s hot as lava flow.
The air’s as thick as dragon’s breath.
The hills look like they might just blow.
The roses hang their heads in death.

My basketball’s a big orange spot
Where it sits melting in the yard.
Our pool boils like a witch’s pot.
The lawn in front is black and charred.

It’s 801 degrees!
The air conditioner just broke.
The birds are falling out of trees.
The squirrels look like they’re going to choke.

So I remain inside and sweat,
And mark the anniversary
Of my STUPIDEST decision yet—
Buying this house on Mercury.

 

Roo-Minations

by Jan Darling

Could you make yourself comfy with cushions or couch?
I have secrets to tell you about the pouch.
But try to sit straight, do try not to slouch
‘cause that would turn me into a grouch.
Now let me find a good place to crouch,
Then truth I will tell you – for that I’ll vouch.

How many creatures, would you guess at or think
Have pouches in which their young can drink?
We’ll only count those in our country because
Their number is huge, even just here in Oz.
Kinds of marsupials who live here and thrive
Add up to one hundred and forty-five!

Most of their pouches will open at front
A few open backwards – how’s that for a stunt?
Do they slide into pouch down over the belly?
Or poised on the ground – jump into the valley?
One thing’s for certain, however they enter
From back or from front, they aim for the centre.

Why, then, do some pouches face towards tail?
…. to protect their young from rain and hail?
No! for food or shelter mum has to dig earth,
Which means all the soil would be aimed at the girth;
If her pouch were to open towards the trees
It would fill up with earth and joey would sneeze!

Now which of our friends their tummies will comb
To keep a neat front on a back-facing home?
Wombats and bilbies, Tass devils and quolls,
Plus bandicoots, koalas, marsupial moles.
I think that I’ve named each motherly digger
If I’ve missed someone off – the list will be bigger.

Marsupials live widely, except in the sea,
Some live on the ground and some in a tree;
Your wombats will burrow (they like to stay snug)
Where it’s better for snaffling a juicy bug.
The wee pygmy possum who lives above snow
High in the Alps, his family will grow.

Most of our roos live in desert and scrub
And only when grazing will they form a club.
They’re not very chummy or prone to join gangs
They keep to themselves and avoid boomerangs.
They don’t elect leaders to steer them through strife,
They don’t even bond with a regular wife.

Some say that this lack of common society
Is the cause of the roo’s constant sobriety.
Too hot to find food in the heat of the day,
They rest till it’s time to hunt and make hay.
At dusk they prepare to take the night air,
Then go out to find food, perchance to pair.

Do all the marsupials enjoy the same food?
That depends on the kind of marsupial brood!
Kangas, koalas and wombats eat plants,
Depending on what their locality grants.
Bandicoots and possums eat whatever’s in sight,
Meat, plant or insect – if they’re hungry, they’ll bite.

The Tasmanian Devil will eat only meat
He’s a cute little fellow but slow on his feet.
Thirteen k’s per hour is not very quick
But he gets enough food for his lips to lick.
Other marsupials eat insects and gnats
And try to avoid confrontations with cats.

Herbivores, omnivores, carnivores, too
Insectivores also you’ll find in the Zoo.
Marsupials too have a trick with their teeth
There’s no second to wait in the gums, beneath –
This wonderful mammal keeps the first forever
To chew, chomp and nibble – that’s ever so clever.

From whence came they here? Arriving which year?
We can only share with you what we can hear.
Word is that this species (and few are finer)
Came from afar – it’s thought to be China!
And the time they arrived will give you a shock
Fifty million in years, says Nature’s clock!

That long ago? What was their route?
They came as they were, not one in a suit!
They moved out from the East and arrived in the West,
On through Americas, not wanting to rest;
Through the Antarctic snows they continued their quest
To the land of Australia, the place they love best.

 

 

Poem In Your Pocket Day Poem

written upon finding most contemporary poems recommended for this day do not contain rhyme or meter.

by Evan Mantyk

From my pocket came cardstock that
Had the words below inscribed
In letters golden thoughts emblazoned;
Hear them now described:

“Poems with rhyming and good timing
Have a certain charm
That makes the brain a speeding train
That moves the writing arm.

You may say that they’re passé
And shallow in their scope,
Yet discipline will often win
Without the help of dope.

Call it common or old fashion
And yet what could be
More profound than how words sound when
Made in harmony,

Like the brass bell’s ringing sound swells
Sending waves afar
With force not random, but from atoms
Lined like music bars;

Tin and copper smelted proper
Makes the metal brass,
For each its protons has strict patterns
And a constant mass.

Things with order and strong borders
Leave a lasting mark,
Reverberating, undulating
Here to ages dark,

From those ages and skin pages
To antiquity
And forward flying past our dying
To posterity.

Song that’s singing! Gong that’s ringing!
Through the poem with rhyme!
Forever living, ever giving
Meaning through all time!”

 

 

 

The Turkey Vulture

by Anna J. Arredondo

Years ago—I still remember: final Thursday in November,
I was in my kitchen cooking food to rival feasts of yore;
To and fro sashaying, hopping, slicing, dicing, mincing, chopping,
Dish by dish—no time for stopping, for so daunting was the chore:
Playing hostess for Thanksgiving—such a monumental chore
____I had never faced before.

Busying myself with basting, reading recipes, and tasting,
I was filled with gratitude for all the things that I adore.
Blithely counting every blessing, I prepared some cornbread dressing,
Barely wond’ring, never guessing what the future had in store;
Thankful for both past and present, what the future had in store
____On this day I could ignore.

When at last I’d finished baking, how my lower back was aching!
Yet my heart was filled with gladness, and my face a smile wore:
After hours of preparation, it was time for celebration,
And with great anticipation I received folks at the door;
Jubilant anticipation as I opened wide the door
____To the guests I’d labored for.

Round the table, bright and perky, we all dined on roasted turkey,
Squash, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, bread, and casseroles galore.
Soon our appetites were slowing; nonetheless we kept on going,
In our swelling bellies stowing two desserts, or three, or four—
So much succulent dessert, we had to eat, like, three or four,
____Till our stomachs were quite sore.

Then all those who still were able helped me—clearing off the table,
Bringing back into the kitchen ample leftovers to store.
Next: what could be fitter closing than to celebrate by dozing?
Soon the guests were all reposing on the sofas and the floor,
Nodding, napping, sweetly dreaming on the sofas and the floor.
____Who could ever ask for more?

This I pondered, reminiscing: not one thing desired was missing;
Such abundance chased away the slightest thought of being poor.
Suddenly, I had the notion there was something still in motion
‘Mid the softly slumbering ocean and its low collective roar;
Yes, I thought I’d heard a noise above the low collective roar
____That was not just one more snore.

Read the complete poem here.

 

 

 

Midmorning Moon

by Adam Sedia

Translucent, pallid, gibbous ghost
Suspended low to west,
Your splendor faded, washed away,
Drowned in beams of dawning day,
Whose light you cannot best.

Alas! So lately you could boast
A brilliance that outshone
The diamantine stars arrayed
Thronging through abyssal shade,
Ruling night’s realm alone.

Now overthrown, you wander, lost
In empty turquoise breadth
Among the rose-tinged clouds of morn,
Dwindling as the day is born,
Wasted to weird half-death.

And yet you course the sky; almost
A specter, yet you live.
Just as to wax you first must wane,
When the sun falls from its reign
Your brilliance shall revive.

 

 

Sea Fever

by John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

 

The Call of the Bush

inspired by John Masefield’s “Sea-Fever” (1902)

by David Watt

I will go down to the bush again, where the days hang crisp and clear,
And cicadas hum their sonorous song from places far and near;
Where cockatoos flash across the sky, screeching all the while,
And the creek below makes a silver show as it slithers past in style.

I will go down to the bush again, where the campfire burns at night,
And the stars compete with the fire’s heat to decide who casts more light;
And the evening breeze bears the scent of leaves, as sweet as love’s intent,
As it lulls to sleep with a charm complete, when the talk of day is spent.

I will go down to the bush again, whenever I feel the need;
For the call of the bush is a strong call, and a call that the heart must heed.
And while I’m there I’ll quite forget my cares, and the flight of time;
Until, with a sense of deep regret, to the world above I climb.

 

 

Reconnaissant Pour L’esprit de Corps

by Randal A. Burd, Jr.

I still recall those days of marching bands
when bonded by a fierce esprit de corps
we stepped in time and played into the stands;
not holding back, we left them wanting more.
They came to see each small town halftime show
what seems to me a lifetime long ago.

What seems to me a lifetime long ago,
we’d test our skills against the other bands.
Our heads held high with such esprit de corps,
we’d send our melodies into the stands.
No marching band has ever given more
than ours when we performed our polished show.

When we performed our polished marching show
so many times, so many years ago,
we held our own among the many bands
and rode the high of our esprit de corps.
Combined with all the cheering from the stands,
that feeling always left us wanting more.

That feeling always left us wanting more,
returning to us during every show,
but that was such a long, long time ago,
back in those days of school and marching bands
when teamwork brought us great esprit de corps,
rewarding us with cheering from the stands.

But now there’s no more cheering from the stands.
We all moved on in search of something more.
Some hoped we’d have a little more to show
for lives which started all those years ago
when days were filled with school and marching bands
and we were filled with much esprit de corps.

Now others share the same esprit de corps
and march in time and play into the stands.
We never see each other anymore.
Reunions pass, but many never show,
though bound together briefly long ago
by lessons learned in school and marching bands.

Esprit de corps is why in marching bands,
we’d stand up straight, chins up, for every show
and leave them wanting more those years ago.

This poem first appeared in Halftime Magazine.

 

Proposed Clichés

by A.M. Juster

Softer than an old potato
too moldy to mash.

More user-friendly than a hooker
hard up for cash.

Love is like a hard-time sentence—
but better than cancer.

Ask not what your country can do,
for fear of the answer.

Beauty beheld is merely skin-deep;
infections are deeper.

The price of honesty is steep;
candidates are cheaper.

A drowning man may clutch at straws,
but his sipping is pathetic.

Burn the candle at both ends
if you want to wax poetic.

You can call off your dogs,
but your cats will ignore you.

If actuaries had wings,
they still would just bore you.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away,
but not your disease.

Blood is thicker than water,
except when they freeze.

It’s just spilt milk under the bridge,
so don’t be big babies.

If you’re crazy like a fox,
get tested for rabies.

 

East African Proverbs

by Anonymous / Translated from Oromo by A.M. Juster

Let the relentless fist
be kissed.

The salt cannot be cooked;
the past is overlooked.

Full once they nibble,
fleas quibble.

Teeth in a hyena’s face
always slide into place.

No donkey can cart
what weighs down your heart.

Outside a man is respected;
at home that man is neglected.

The strangers weep and leave;
family members grieve.

Even half-blind men
hope to see again.

True words end;
lies extend.

 

 


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One Response

  1. Wilbur Dee Case

    All of the readings here are competent and nicely done. I think Mr. Mantyk’s development as an important poetic editor in American letters is improving through the years.

    Though I have not written anything upon A. M. Juster’s poetry since my “Update on the Sonnet” (2007), where his name was one of many hidden within its lines, I should like to set down a few words here.

    In his own little niche of English poetry, Mr. Juster reigns supreme. In that way, he reminds me of John Lyly. He is among the most gifted of Formalist poets. His poems are thoughtful, microcosmic interludes. Though one may be reminded of Dickinson, Moore, or MacNeice, when reading each individual piece, his voice is unique and, at moments, profound. His poetry certainly deserves acknowledgement in the New Millennium.

    Reply

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