Tag Archives: poems

selenotropic

This word seems so serene and tropical – and it is, in its way. It is from Classical Greek σελήνη seléné ‘moon’ (also the name of the moon goddess: Σελήνη) and τροπος tropos ‘turning’, and it means ‘turning to the moon’. It is used technically of plants that follow the cold mottled white orb of the night in its celestial transit, but all humans (and not just on tropical nights) – and especially all poets – do it too.

The noun from which selenotropic is derived, selenotropism, was confected by M.C. Musset in 1883 following an experiment (read his short summary) in which he raised plants in darkness and then exposed them to moonlight to see if they would follow it, and they did.

I’ve written a poem on this theme. While you read it, why not listen to Claude Débussy playing his own Clair de Lune, recorded on piano roll, inspired by Paul Verlaine’s poem of the same name?

You can read Verlaine’s poem in the description on the video, if you click through to YouTube. Here is mine:

selenotropic

Did you turn to the moon?

After sprouting in shadow,
after you grew in darkness,
grew slender, long, sun-starved,
grew leaves and tendrils knowing
no warmth, no joy, no mist,
no riot of birds, no bee-kiss,
nothing to trample or eat you,
nothing to touch or greet you,

after one warm hand took you,
after your captor exposed you,
exposed you to glass, to sky,
exposed you to whispers, to watching
your stems, your terminal buds,
your eyes, your fingers of blood
wanting the sun, the rain,
wanting the wings, the pain,

did you pull at your roots,
did you lean to see
what this lover was,
what this almost-light—
not sun, not day, not bulb,
not flame, not lightning flash—
wanted, running and sinking,
wanted behind the mountain?

Did you, in all your paleness,
did you, in never-green,
in your concavities,
in your internal cause,
know then that you were seen,
know then that you were named,
and glow with unowned light,
and grow, and shine, and fade?

Did you turn to the moon?

apartment

I grew up in houses, which are about as apart as a dwelling place can be, especially when they’re far out in the country with no one else in sight. Now my wife and I live in the city, so far downtown that downtown is up, with people living all around us, hundreds of them even within wifi radius, and somehow the space we have walled off for us in the middle of all that is an apartment. You’d think they might call the whole building a togetherment, but no. Well, each unit is its own little world, set apart from all the others, except for the noise that leaks through the ceiling, floor, and wall from those on the other side.

Anyway, here’s a poem, in fairly free verse.

 

Come in, welcome, let me
show you around. This
is the front door closing behind you and
this is the front closet, where
we keep a thousand pounds
of coats, but half of that
weight is dust and dead bugs.
If you push to the back of the closet,
far beyond the jumbled
stack of suitcases and tubes
of awkward wrapping paper, and step
where no foot has set in a decade
and shove through the fabric, you
will enter a different world—
of dead bugs and dust and wall.
And the stacks of boxes will all
collapse behind you and bury you.
Don’t go in there. Come.

Ahead is the door to the bedroom,
where you do not belong. This way.

Here is the guest toilet, with the tap
that is easy to use, except
if you are that one person for whom
it will always fall apart suddenly.
The walls in here are red, as red
as fresh blood, and I recommend
that if you shut the door, you
keep your eyes shut too. No,
we didn’t paint it that colour;
it was the previous owners.

Here is the hall and here
is a cute door that you must
never open, because—wait—no—
oh, ha ha, just kidding, it’s
our washer and dryer. Moving on.

Ahead is a view of the city,
as much of it as you can see,
which is about three blocks, because
all the other buildings
around us are taller. But
if you just press your face
against the window, you
can see the tower. Wait.
Here, this is paper towel
and this is Windex. Please
remove the greasy faceprint
you’ve just made on the glass.

Through that sliding door is
the little solarium, which
is small and contains nothing
that would interest you, just
cameras and boxes and boxes
and chairs and papers. The walls?
Oh, yes, you see that they
are murder red as well. Guess why.
Yes, the previous owners. Move
on, don’t bother, don’t touch that.

You are in the dining room.
You can see that it is part
of the same amorphous space
that is most of the dwelling;
we arbitrarily divide it
into nominal rooms,
each a part apart of apartment,
like Europe divided from Asia or
work time from happy time or
joy from terror, pet
from meat, head from neck.
Oh, now you’ve stepped
out of the dining room. Oh,
now you’re back in. Do you see?
Imagine a line from this shelf
to this liquor cabinet that
is next to my desk here. Look,
this matters. You should always
be able to say where you are. Here,
have a drink. Step this way.

And here, as you pass between
the computer desk Charybdis
and the Scylla of chaise longue,
is the library, so called
because obvious reasons.
Here, sit down, have a chair
that I’ve dragged from the dining room
to set your drink on. Good.
Sit on the chaise longue. No,
you can’t sit on the big
baseball-glove-shaped chair.
Why? It’s mine. Sit. Drink!
The wall? Behind the books? You
can see it? Oh. No, heh, that
was the previous owners.

Sorry, I don’t know. We still
get mail for them, all these
dozen or so years later. Huh.

As you can see from your seat
on the chaise longue, over here
is the kitchen: where the magic
happens. No, no, stay there.
Yes, iron pan, yes, fridge, yes,
knives, only the best, you know,
and behind all those jars are jars.
No. Stay there. You can hear me
well enough as I cook.
There is one thing you should know
about my kitchen, and that is
stay out.

Say, if you’re getting bored
with the view of my three thousand books
while I whip up dinner for you,
here’s a special treat:
let’s go see the view
from the bedroom window. No, really.
It’s OK. I’ll go with you.

Why is that door open?
Yes, still the washer and dryer.

Here is the bedroom, and as
you can see, it is facing the other
way. Ignore those books. Yes,
there is a bed under all that.
Here is the window. See? There
is the island, and the tracks,
and the freeway, and the holes
in which they are going to put
more huge buildings. Yay.
In there is the master
bathroom, but wait, no,
don’t look, it’s, no, wait,
no, you don’t, ah, no, well,
yes, as you can see, there is
a shower and a separate tub,
and some shelves and dust and a sink
and, oh, that wall? Sorry, that
was the previous owners. Now
do come have a sit
and let me refresh your drink
and I’ll go cut some things.

Jellicle

This is Jaggie, the gumbie cat

A couple of nights ago, I saw the musical Cats for the first time. That may seem rather late, given how long it’s been around, and given that my wife even had a nickname among some of her skater friends based on it. But so it goes. Continue reading

The sound of Povember

Not everyone who reads Sesquiotica may know that for the last year and more I’ve been record an audio version of every new word tasting and similar article I post. I usually don’t have the time to record it for a few days after posting the original article, and I always release it early for Patreon subscribers first before putting it on SoundCloud and embedding it in the article. So by the time I add it to the article, most subscribers have moved on. But it’s there, waiting for you to come back and listen to it whenever you want.

I’ve finally finished adding all my audio versions of my Povember poems. To save you the hassle of looking them all up, I’ve embedded them all below. Click on any one to listen to it! Continue reading

mischievous

I’d like you all to meet Miss Chievous.
She’s got a lot of fun to give us.
With eyes so wiley and mouth so devious,
She’ll trick you to thinking she’s Miss Chievious
(She isn’t now, though you should know
She had that name centuries ago).
She’s a little imp, a sylph, a sprite,
A naughty mistress of delight;
When it comes to fun that could end in grief,
She’s the boss-girl – she’s Miss Chief.
It’s Friday evening and you’re bored stiff?
Just wave a little handkerchief,
Put on your tail coat and your waistcoat –
Or kevlar vest, and grab your mess kit –
Her boat to fun’s docked at the quay.
She’ll teach you to be wild and free!
She’ll have you dangling on a gunwale
Quaffing Cognac with a funnel,
Held inverted by a boatswain
Mostly naked till half frozen;
Sneaking peaks and stealing victuals –
Blancmanges and peanut brittles,
Caesars spiked with sauce from Worcester –
Then she’ll say, “Come meet my sister.”
If your tongue is free from injury,
Just wait till she comes out in… lingerie!
For that’s how she breeds fascination:
She ever foils your expectation.
If you make your chief Miss Chief,
You’ll end up hanging from a cliff
And see Miss Chievous just above it…
But mark my words, boy, you will love it.

I encourage you to read this through for yourself first. But you may thereafter watch this video of me reading it, if you wish:

by

A word such as by is really too basic and multifarious to do a tasting of the usual sort on it. Instead, I present a poem – another from Songs of Love and Grammar.

Joined by fate by April

Last fall I was hit by a stop sign
by a truck that failed to stop;
the driver was caught by a red light
and sent off to jail by a cop.
I was taken away by an ambulance
and laid by a nurse in a bed
in a hospital built by a river
and by morning was back from the dead.
I was kept in a room by the river
by the nurse to heal and stay.
I was seen by my bed by the window
by the nurse twice every day.
I was healed by the power of beauty:
I was struck by the nurse’s face
and blown away by her lovely lips
by the time I left that place.
The nurse was known by April
by friends and by people about
and, by George, she was called by the next month
by me to ask her out.
By April she had been courted
by me for half a year
and by then it was time for a ring
to be given by me to my dear.
We were wed by a tree by a lake
by a hill by the moon by a priest
and the joining by God was feted
by the stars by our friends by a feast.
Now I’m joined in my life by April
and by fate we will never be parted,
and my wall is bedecked by the stop sign
by which this all was started.
By the wall a cradle’s been placed,
and by April all will know why:
by and large, my April’s grown pregnant,
and we’ll have a child by and by.

Unrequoted love

A friend recently got a tweet from an interested chap in which he used quotation marks in a way she, as an editor, did not approve of. I was put in mind of this poem from my book Songs of Love and Grammar:

Unrequoted love

I’m getting letters from my dear,
but I’m not sure that she’s sincere.
I see the way she ends her notes:
the phrase “I love you” is in quotes.
I really don’t know what to do,
for if she’s quoting, quoting who?

Although I know it seems absurd,
her every gift is but a word:
I send you “hugs”, I send you “kisses”
That’s it? Some kind of present this is!
She writes, I “miss” you, and I see
the missing is mere irony!

Well, I think I know what to do:
I’m writing her, I “miss” you too.
My “love” is such, if you were here,
you’d get “a diamond ring”, my dear.
My “life” shall be at your disposal –
I wait for “yes” to my “proposal”.

She sends mere quotes? I send her same!
She’ll know that two can play this game!

If you enjoyed that, there are five dozen more in Songs of Love and Grammar, available for just $12 on lulu.com and amazon.com.

A naughty chemistry poem

I think it’s about time for another poem from Songs of Love and Grammar (my book of salacious verse about English usage, available at Lulu.com and Amazon.com). This one is a naughty chemistry poem – by which I mean both a naughty poem about chemistry and a poem about naughty chemistry. It is larded with abbreviations from the periodic table – e.g., Fe for iron. To read it correctly you need to read the abbreviations as the full names of the elements. If you’re stuck, no worries: I’ve made a video of it.

The elements of lust

I met a chemist just by chance
in the Pd at a dance.
I’m a bit of a B the dancing floor,
so I thought I’d try a little more.
I asked, “Would it be much amiss
to lead a Rn your mouth with a little kiss?”
She said, “Oh, please, don’t get me wrong.
It’s just – your W inches long.”
“I know,” I said. “It’s fun for play,
though when I it’s in the way.”
She said, “Then let’s be somewhat bolder,
with my right Ne your left shoulder.
The days Ar when I would shy –
they’re dead; let’s Ba, say bye-bye.”
My sense of shame I’d S a Ni,
so we commenced some slap and tickle,
but even I turn Cd red
to think of where our actions Pb…
The host told us we had to stop or
we’d be dragged off by a Cu;
it took some Au to Fe it out.
But this adventure left no doubt:
in love, I’m not so sentimental…
I’ll take a girl who’s elemental.

Now here’s the video:

The various chemical symbols, which have to be pronounced as the full name of the element, are: Pd = palladium, B = boron, Rn = radon, W = tungsten, I = iodine, Ne = neon, Ar = argon, Ba = barium, S = sulfur, Ni = nickel, Cd = cadmium, Pb = lead, Cu = copper, Au = gold, Fe = iron. Note that the I in line 10 is iodine, not simply the first-person singular pronoun. Cadmium red is a bright red.

To split the sweet infinitive

Instead of a word tasting note today, I present, for your entertainment, a video of my poem “To sweetly split the infinitive” from Songs of Love and Grammar. I think you’re going to really like it. 😉

My veil of tears: an eggcorn poem

Herewith a poem (and following note) from my book Songs of Love and Grammar, which will be forthcoming if and when I find a publisher or give up and publish it myself with an on-demand web publisher [EDIT: buy it at lulu.com]. The poem is about eggcorns. What are they? Read on…

My veil of tears

Oh, woeth me! I’ve fallen hard,
hosted by my own petard!
In one fowl swoop, my just desserts
have been served up – and, boy, it hurts!
I have betrayed my love, but plead
compulsion by deep-seeded need!
Whole-scale short-sided wrecklessness
has got me in an awful mess.
My Jane was straight-laced; I was cursed,
chalk-full of need to slack my thirst.
Although our lives were going fine,
I just couldn’t tow the line.
When on a small site-seeing tour,
I took a pretty southmore’s lure:
jar-dropping beauty, looks to kill –
with baited breath I stood stalk still.
“I have a view that’s quite unique,”
she said. “Let’s go and sneak a peak.”
Why did I heed her beckon call?
Free reign of passions leads to fall,
but what I thought led straight to hell:
“She’ll tie me over – my as well!”
We didn’t buy our time that night;
we cut straight to the cheese on sight –
I won’t mix words: our will to dare
just grew like top seed then and there.
As if possessed of slight of hand,
in never regions we did land
(to name a view would be too course
and put the cat before the horse).
When all was done, I had the sense
I’d face cognitive dissidence,
but thought I’d pawn off bold-faced lies.
At last I had to realize
my power mower was not one-of
when I got news that caused my love –
a note a few months later: “Soon your
southmore will produce a junior.”
I got a mindgrain; I could see
a storm in the offering for me.
My Jane was cued in, bye and bye,
and she raised up a human cry
in a high dungeon. “You’ve done wrongs!
Let’s go at it, hammer and thongs!
The chickens have come home to roast!
I won’t lie doormat now! Your toast!”
She caused a raucous with abuse
and anger I could not diffuse.
Her words were nasty – so profound,
my vocal chords can’t make the sound.
She was a bowl in a china shop,
beyond the pail. I said, “Please stop!
The dye is cast! It’s not the place
to cut off your nose despite your face!
Don’t get your nipples in a twist!
You give me short shift! I insist
I’m utterly beyond approach!
Don’t treat me like a mere cockroach!”
She cried, “My cause for consternation
is not a pigment of the imagination!
There’s a bi-product of your lust!
Get out! You fill me with disgust!”
The point was mute; my chance was past,
so I gave up the goat at last.
Fate accompli, forgotten conclusion –
my morays were my dissolution.
And so, without further adieu,
here’s some advice that’s trite and true:
It would be who of you to trust your gut;
nip wayward passions in the butt.
Don’t sow your wild oaks around –
the eggcorns might just bring you down.

An eggcorn is a misconstrual of a word or phrase on the basis of an inaccurate (but seemingly sensible) analysis of its parts or origins. It uses other existing words or word parts in place of the originals. The term eggcorn is of course one such – the word should be acorn. The six dozen eggcorns in this poem have all been observed “in the wild” – used by real people in earnest, not as jokes (see eggcorns.lascribe.net). The eggcorns (and their proper forms) are veil of tears (vale of tears), woeth me (woe is me), hosted by my own petard (hoist with my own petard), one fowl swoop (one fell swoop), just desserts (just deserts), deep-seeded (deep-seated), whole-scale (wholesale), short-sided (short-sighted), wrecklessness (recklessness), straight-laced (strait-laced), chalk-full (chock full), slack my thirst (slake my thirst), tow the line (toe the line), site-seeing (sightseeing), southmore (sophomore), jar-dropping (jaw-dropping), baited breath (bated breath), stalk still (stock still), sneak a peak (sneak a peek), beckon call (beck and call), free reign (free rein), tie me over (tide me over), my as well (might as well), buy our time (bide our time), cut to the cheese (cut to the chase), mix words (mince words), grew like top seed (grew like Topsy), slight of hand (sleight of hand), never regions (nether regions), to name a view (to name a few), course (coarse), put the cat before the horse (put the cart before the horse), cognitive dissidence (cognitive dissonance), pawn off (palm off), bold-faced lies (bald-faced lies), power mower (paramour), one-of (one-off), caused (cost), mindgrain (migraine), in the offering (in the offing), cued in (clued in), bye and bye (by and by), human cry (hue and cry), high dungeon (high dudgeon), hammer and thongs (hammer and tongs), come home to roast (come home to roost), lie doormat (lie dormant), your toast (you’re toast), a raucous (a ruckus), diffuse (defuse), profound (profane), vocal chords (vocal cords), bowl in a china shop (bull in a china shop), beyond the pail (beyond the pale), the dye is cast (the die is cast), cut off your nose despite your face (cut off your nose to spite your face), don’t get your nipples in a twist (don’t get your knickers in a twist), short shift (short shrift), beyond approach (beyond reproach), a pigment of the imagination (a figment of the imagination), bi-product (by-product), the point was mute (the point was moot), gave up the goat (gave up the ghost), fate accompli (fait accompli), forgotten conclusion (foregone conclusion), morays (mores), without further adieu (without further ado), trite and true (tried and true), be who of you (behoove you), nip in the butt (nip in the bud), sow your wild oaks (sow your wild oats), and of course  eggcorns (acorns).