Saturday, April 1, 2017

fate





the fire was burning low.

thurston and beresford were the only members of the club still in the room.

“you know,” said thurston, “i was reading something in the gazette this morning.” he paused. “i can’t now remember what it was, but somehow it put me in mind of something. something that happened a long time ago. to a fellow named stafford- wiggins. i don’t suppose you would have known him?”

beresford made a sort of grunt which thurston took as indicating that beresford had indeed not known stafford-wiggins.

“no, i didn’t suppose you would,” thurston continued. “he was a young chap starting out in the service in the corps - the diplomatic corps - at the same time as myself. which, of course, was not exactly yesterday. anyway, all of us - all of us young fellows starting out - thought stafford-wiggins was quite a comer. so, one bright spring afternoon old sir edward chandry - who was in charge of sort of shepherding us through our apprenticeship - invited all of us - all of us young chaps - to the races. at ascot, if i remember correctly.

one of the things that impressed us about stafford-wiggins was the amazing talent he had for arriving at any event or appointment at exactly the right time - never so much as a minute early or late.

so, all the rest of us had gathered in front of the track with sir edward and lady chandry, and we were waiting for stafford-wiggins. the more forthright among us had been laughingly assuring sir edward and his consort that he would most assuredly arrive just in time.

and sure enough, he did just that.

a few of the fellows began chaffing him good-naturedly as he stepped down from his coach, straightening his jacket and getting ready to pay his respects to sir edward and lady chandry, whom i happened to be standing just behind.

“that young man,” lady chandry observed in a low voice to sir edward, indicating stafford-wiggins, “does not know how to wear a top hat.”

this was bad enough, but worse was to come.

“nor,” lady chandry added , “will he ever.”

“i am afraid you are right, my dear,” sir edward agreed as he put on a smile and stepped forward to greet stafford-wiggins.

sentence had been passed, as quickly as a leaf might fall, and of course there was no appeal or any notion of one from the condemned.

i remember that i made a few successful wagers that afternoon, which needless to say made more of an impression on me than any thoughts - deep or otherwise - i might have had about poor staford-wiggins.

in due course, stafford-wiggins was posted to the balkans or spanish guyana or some such. for all practical purposes, he was never heard of or from again. “

thurston paused again, “funny, isn’t it, how a single - what would you call it? not even a misstep, really, can determine a fellow’s fate.”

but beresford did not reply, as he had fallen asleep.



Sunday, March 12, 2017

lonely





by alice marston sternwall

everybody hates the lonely
don’t let them tell you otherwise
you are having a nice conversation
then you see the desperation in their eyes

all the years of solitude
come rising up like foam
in the flickering beams of your sympathy
they finally see their way home

their dreams and sad opinions
flow through the night and into dawn
their clutching hands reach out to you
but you are already gone

perhaps when you lie dying
in a little room alone
you will give a thought to those desperate ones
and regret your heart of stone



Thursday, March 2, 2017

a ballad





he world is bad but should be good
robin hood slept in king john’s wood
king john was bad, but robin was good
let us sing a song of robin hood

o merrily merrily merrily we go
all of good cheer we be
fair robin doth dwell in the deep deep woods
dwelleth there doth he

the king put a bounty on robin’s head
and swore to hang him from a tree
o merrily merrily merrily we go
all of good cheer be we

maid marian rode by the castle gate
she caught the bad king’s eye
all merrily she rode away
between the forest and the sky

all merrily we ride away
with robin and his merry men
and we’ll stay in the wood be it understood
until the good times come again

friar tuck stood up with a flagon of ale
he drank it down right strong
o merrily merrily merrily we go
singing this merry song



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

farewell song





in the depths of heaven
the ocean roars
shed a tear, shed a tear
for the circus is no more

*

the sun sets over the highway

the last track drives away

the clowns watch the trucks disappear and head off to begin their new lives

as panhandlers and fitness gurus and hedge fund managers

all except one, chunky, the oldest of them all

who is determined to find the last pie baked by the last widow on the last windowsill

and hit donald trump or vladimir putin in the face with it

the big tent has been cut up to make napkins at burger king

the bareback dancers pack their bags and they too hit the road

back to philadelphia and cleveland to get jobs as life managers and creative consultants

the ringmaster and the magician make plans to start a maoist alternative to breitbart

the magician’s apprentice goes back to a trailer park outside elko nevada to take care of her 12 younger siblings

moe, the cook, lies down by the side of the road and cries

manny and mac and mose, the roustabouts, enroll in management courses at the university of phoenix

the elephants go back to africa

the lions go back to mars

the horses run away over the playgrounds filled with needles

the lion trainer and al the acrobat hatch a scheme so complicated it can not be described here.

suffice to say they will not settle for a few lousy billions

ed the elephant keeper buys two bottles of wine and a chicken salad grinder, toasted, with cheese, and starts hitchhiking to the northwest territories

alice the acrobat stuffs the trapeze into her bag, with plans to call it a work of art and get at least 15 million dollars for it

they all make plans to meet again for a reunion at the arby’s roast beef outside las cruces new mexico in 2047



ars poetica





poetry is hard to write
and if you write some every night
most of it is hopeless glop
into the garbage to be dropped

poets who live for all time
only write one or two lines
that anyone really remembers
the rest are only ash and embers

their names are known, but ninety-nine
percent of their well-gotten rhymes
are no more read than the reports
of arizona traffic courts

no other human occupation
produces such a tiny ration
of success to total nothingness
with no excuses to profess

so, poet, persevere
the world will shed no tear
you must weep for your own self
as you moulder on the shelf

your failure to communicate
is only humans’ common fate
like all you take your lumps
as darkness triumphs



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

agatha





by alice marston sternwall

agatha was a solemn child
with no desire to run wild
while other children played with balls
agatha dreamed of stately halls

lined with books by ancient sages -
how she longed to turn the pages
containing the wisdom of the ages -
agatha’s life went by in stages

she remained solemn as she grew
she loved the old and scorned the new
and ne’er embarked on slope so slippery
as caring ought for fads or frippery

if romance ever touched her heart
she gave no sign, but played the part
of one whose only love, forsooth
was pursuit of eternal truth

agatha gained a name of sorts
the god of fame with her did sport
two books of epigrams, quite terse
spread slowly through the universe

a fearful illness wracked her being
she realized her days were fleeing
doctors and priests alike she spurned
but sought to gather all she’d learned

into a final testament -
then to her acolytes she sent
an invitation to attend
a gathering before her end

attracted by her flickering flame
the mothlike followers duly came
and found poor agatha almost gone
with little hope for the next dawn

they gathered round, from many nations
when to their sudden consternation
a violent storm outside was heard
obscuring the sibyl’s final words

then when the thunder did retreat
the faithful begged her to repeat
her prophecy - but , broken-hearted
found agatha’s spirit had departed



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

thus doth it end




mr z had things to say
and he posted them every day
then one day to him it occurred
that all his passionate words
in the cloud were just floating away

he suddenly got to his feet
and went outside in the street
the world was deserted and bare
only he was taking the air
he fell to the ground in despair

he resolved to mend his ways
and care not for censure or praise
to become a wandering minstrel or monk
or a sidewalk-sitting drunk
or just lay there forever in a daze

at length hunger attacked his frame
and to his eternal shame
he went inside for a bite
the old thoughts returned so bright
and he got back into the game

mr z has things to say
and he posts them every day
with his trusty laptop and phone
and pizza delivered to his home
he wouldn’t have it any other way