Shakespeare: There is No Vice So Simple

The world is still deceived with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
What damned error but some sober brow
Will bless it, and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts.

 –Bassanio, in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (3.2.74-82)


Sam Peralta is hosting dVerse FormForAll tonight. He has set us on the task of writing sedoka, a Japanese poetry form with two stanzas, each stanza having a 5-7-7 syllable count. Sam gives a good explanation of the other features of the form–y’all are invited to craft your own and link up!
The slow water of
Tumble Creek reflects white clouds
and the hungry green heron.
Nothing stays the same.
It may be no human eye
Has ever seen what I see.


They gave balloons to all the kids,
in hopes (my guess) of keeping
them occupied as parents shopped.
Helium-filled, squeaky red spheres
of shimmering joy, tied on each slender
wrist, and the scheme did work,
for a while at least, until we
tried to take it off to strap him
in his seat and he screamed
holy hell; and we fingered
the string to feed him supper,
and he fought us off; and it was
time for bath and there was No Way
he was going to wear it in the tub,
but he gave our ears such a
buffeting that we gave in, washing
around the knotted white twine.
Then time for bed, and now
for sure he would obey or else,
and the hollering resumed; finally
I had enough, took the balloon
in my furious hands and wrenched—
Pop! My sudden act of benevolence.
And later, sleepless, I wondered if God
felt guilty for ending our fun
over one shiny red obsession.
–Submitted to dVerse OpenLinkNight. Come join in!

And Now, Before Kneeling

Rondelet. A cute, wistful little poetic form, introduced by Tony Maude for dVerse FormForAll. The repetition made me think of the monotony of life, which made me think of growing older, which led me to write this cute, wistful, somewhat religious, strangely humorous piece about getting old. The knees go first! Took some slight liberties with the form–didn’t worry much about syllable count, and used slant rhymes. And left out a word in the last refrain. Tony said I could! 

And Now, Before Kneeling
And now, before kneeling
I think about the strain.
And now, before kneeling
I get that old-time feeling;
I’m not as young as I have been.
What will it take to rise again,

Now before kneeling?

Han-shan: Like a Blind Man

(Sunrise from Daufuskie Island)

A certain scholar named Mr. Wang
Was laughing at my poems for being so clumsy.
“Don’t you know you can’t have two accents here?
And this line has too many beats.
You don’t seem to understand meter at all
But toss in any word that comes to mind!”
I laugh too, Mr. Wang, when you make a poem,
Like a blind man trying to sing of the sun.

       –Han-shan, trans. Burton Watson

Who Should Inherit the Estate

Strange happenings over at dVerse FormForAll tonight. Our host, Charles Miller, prompts us to try our hand at Dada, avant-garde, chip-choppy poetry. There are many ways to do this–perhaps the simplest way is to cut up a text into words, phrases, sentences, put them in a bowl, randomly pick them out and arrange them into whatever meaning you can perceive. I’ll explain my own procedure at the end, in kindness to those who couldn’t care less how this poem came about.

Who Should Inherit the Estate
Can I suppose
            it is sometimes
exceedingly good
            when Papa and Mama
told an Officer anything?
            Further, though it
had on hats, my
            family concept
is not very pretty,
            and it was–
is–after all,
            her take.
Ok. So I went to Gutenberg to find a free, non-copyrighted text to print out and cut up into words for the random prize drawing. I noticed that Gutenberg hosts non-English texts, and had a strange idea. What if I take a portion of a non-English text, copy and paste some random foreign words and phrases into MS Word, take that document and put it through a translation tool, then re-arrange what’s left as I thought suitable? Wouldn’t that be fun? That’s what happened here. I used a Danish text.

Here is the original, which you can gladly skip since  it probably just looks like monkey-typing (unless you know Danish or a closely related language).
Jeg vilde saa gerne vide, om det er morsomt at være en Eventyrerske, for det er øjensynligt det, jeg nu maa blive. Jeg har læst alt muligt om det i en Bog; det er at se godt ud, og ikke at have noget at leve af, og dog have Fornøjelse af Livet — og det har jeg i Sinde! Jeg har ganske vist ingenting at leve af, for man kan ikke regne 300 Pund om Aaret for noget videre — jeg er overordentlig køn, og jeg véd det godt, og jeg forstaar at sætte mit Haar og tage mine Hatte paa og den Slags Ting, saa jeg er naturligvis Eventyrerske! Jeg var ikke bestemt til at spille den Rolle. — Fru Carruthers adopterede mig for at efterlade mig sin Formue, da hun den Gang var Uvenner med sin Arving, som skulde arve Godset. Saa var hun saa inkonsekvent, at hun ikke skrev et ordentligt Testamente — derfor er det, at det Menneske skal have alt, og jeg ingenting.
Jeg er tyve Aar, og lige indtil forrige Uge, da Fru Carruthers blev syg og døde paa én og samme Dag, havde jeg det sommetider meget behageligt, naar hun var i godt Humør.
Det kan ikke nytte at lade, som om man kan lide Folk, fordi de er døde, naar man vil skrive sine virkelige Tanker. For det meste hadede jeg Fru Carruthers. Det var ganske umuligt at gøre hende tilpas. Hun havde ikke Begreb om Retfærdighed, eller om noget andet end sin egen Bekvemmelighed, og om hvor meget andre Mennesker kunde bidrage til hendes Fornøjelse.
Grunden til, at hun i det hele taget kom til at gøre noget for mig, var den, at hun havde været forelsket i Papa, og da han giftede sig med stakkels Mama — som slet ingen Familie havde — og saa døde, tilbød hun at tage mig til sig og opdrage mig, bare for at ærgre Mama, fortalte hun mig ofte. Da jeg kun var fire Aar, havde jeg ikke noget at sige i den Sag, og hvis Mama havde Lyst til at give Afkald paa mig, blev det jo hendes Sag. Mamas Fader var Lord og hendes Moder jeg véd ikke hvem, og de havde ikke gjort sig den Ulejlighed at blive gifte, det var derfor, at stakkels Mama slet ingen Slægtninge havde. Da Papa var død, giftede hun sig med en Officer og rejste til Indien og døde, og jeg saá hende aldrig mere — og saadan gaar det til, at der ikke er en Sjæl i Verden, som kommer mig ved, eller som interesserer sig for mig, saa jeg kan ikke gøre for, at jeg er en Eventyrerske og kun tænker paa mig selv, kan jeg vel?

Then I randomly chose these phrases.

som skulde arve Godset

Da Papa og Mama
noget videre
mine Hatte
i godt Humør.
en Officer fortalte
og tage paa
havde Familie
er overordentlig køn,
om det ikke Begreb
det sommetider meget
blev det jo hendes
kan jeg vel?

Putting it into MS Translator gave me this, which had some interesting lines–but too little sense (I make a piss-poor Dadaist, I suppose).

Who Should Inherit the Estate
When Papa and Mama
anything further
My Hats
in a good mood.
an Officer told
and take on
had Family
is exceedingly pretty,
though it is not Concept
It is sometimes very
It was, after all, her
can I suppose?

To end up with my final creation I kept all the words, changing only word order, punctuation, and capitalization. Notice I kept the title as is! Ta da! or should I say, Dada!


Last week, my friend and fellow poet Henry Clemmons posted a poem about nightmares. This afternoon when I sat down to write his poem was still in my head, so I thought I’d run with it. Thanks Henry; and please, poets, send your week’s thoughts to dVerse OpenLinkNight!

The night-fears return,
a little green man
with clicking teeth
and omnipotent eyes,
fingers pungent red
gripping a corner, any corner,
leveraging a feline pounce
to send me running,
running, I cannot see
my unsteady footfall
pounding on
and on —
terror, stale-tasting
like motionless basement air,
and if it weren’t for nightmares
we’d want to close our eyes
and sleep all

the live-long day.