Friday, December 26, 2008

Poetry Friday

Two poems about mortality, each funny in its own way.

On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness

by Arthur Guiterman

The tusks which clashed in mighty brawls
Of mastodons, are billiard balls.
The sword of Charlemagne the Just
Is Ferric Oxide, known as rust.
The grizzly bear, whose potent hug,
Was feared by all, is now a rug.
Great Caesar's bust is on the shelf,
And I don't feel so well myself.

Publication Date (from God's Silence)

by Franz Wright

One of the few pleasures of writing
is the thought of one's book in the hands of a kindhearted
intelligent person somewhere. I can't remember what the others
are right now.
I just noticed that it is my own private

National I Hate Myself and Want to Die Day
(which means the next day I will love my life
and want to live forever). The forecast calls
for a cold night in Boston all morning

and all afternoon. They say
tomorrow will be just like today,
only different. I'm in the cemetery now
at the edge of town, how did I get here?

A sparrow limps past on its little bone crutch saying
I am Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca
risen from the dead—
literature will lose, sunlight will win, don't worry.

Poetry roundup is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


Elaine Magliaro said...


Love the poems you posted. Another humorous poem by Guiterman that makes me laugh every time I read it is "Ancient History."

I hope the old Romans
Had painful abdomens.

I hope the old Greeks
Had toothache for weeks.

I hope the Egyptians
Had chronic conniptions.

I hope that the Arabs
Were bitten by scarabs.

I hope that the Vandals
Had thorns in their sandals.

I hope that the Persians
Had gout in all versions.

I hope that the Medes
Were kicked by their steeds.

They started the fuss
And left it to us.

Three cheers for light verse--and Happy New Year!

jone said...

I imagining seeing a sp arrow saying he is Federico Garcia Lorcarisen, hmmm...enjoyed these both.

J. Patrick Lewis said...


Guiterman is in my pantheon of light verse heroes. Here's a parody of (read: homage to) the above:

On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness, II
(Pace Arthur Guiterman)

The alligator, who perverse-
ly pinned his prey, is now a purse.

The riddle of the Sphinx, I’d say,
Is how his nose got blown away.

The cow, once so self-satisfied,
Is furniture in Naugahyde.

Great dinosaurs patrol museums
To contemplate their mausoleums.

The Royal Family’s looking dismal—
And I forgot my Pepto-Bismol.

Happy Merry,

poemhome said...

Elaine and Pat
Those two poems both had me LOL.
And I'll add another:

I hope that one Alaskan
Can't cope inside her bearskin.


Julie said...

What is it about "National I Hate Myself and Want to Die Day" that makes me laugh out loud? Sometimes, I wonder about me.

Okay: In the shadow of Pat's brilliant multi-stanza-ed homage, here is a two-liner, for the poem Elaine found, "Ancient History":

I hope that the Huns
Were laid low by the runs.

That's the best I can do a week before New Year's Eve. Happy New Year to you all!

Anonymous said...

Douglas - Loved both of those poems. I thought nothing could top the first one until I reached the bird, claiming to be Lorca. Sheer genius.

And Pat's parody was brilliant as well (no surprise there!)

Mary Lee said...

Great poems (and parodies), All! Thanks for the new poet, Douglas. I read the first out loud to hubby who thought it must be Ogden Nash! Off to look up books by Guiterman...

laurasalas said...

Ha! I enjoyed both the poems and the parodies/poems in the comments.

I love "I can't remember what the others are right now."

I spend lots of time at this time of year pondering the past year and planning the next. Love these reminders to not take it too seriously, because who's really going to care!

poemhome said...

I heard Clint Eastwood say recently, "It's good to take your work seriously, but not yourself too seriously."

tess said...

This sentiment of taking one's work seriously but not oneself is so fitting for Franz Wright, a beautiful soul.