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



Sunday, October 16, 2016

blue hour




a languid young lady named lou
wore a dressing gown of blue
her silver mirror reflected
the scarlet life she had selected

a perfume bottle of green
contrived to complete the scene
she heard a knock on the yellow door
she had passed this way before

her saucy maid entered the room
with an air of impending doom
oh miss lou, she cried
there is a gentleman outside

to say this is very hard
but he is from scotland yard
and it is his unpleasant task
some questions for you to ask

thank you, lily, said lou
i know that your heart is true
leave us now if you please
with this gent i will shoot the breeze

lou greeted her unwelcome guest
with an air that would have impressed
the queens of england and france
if they had been there by chance

the detective’s name was bash
he sported a gray mustache
and without further ado
he delivered this message to lou

madam, i think it best
that you do not resist arrest
i have a charge to relate
approved by a magistrate

that on august twenty-sixth
you were seen in company with
a man named albert bend
who came to an untimely end

and was found with four bullets in his head
unmistakably dead
in an alley behind a chip shop
where his body had been dropped

his previous movements’ history
had remained a mystery
though we searched from south to north
only now has a witness come forth

to fil in the lacunae
of the deceased’s last night and day
as a result of this information
i must ask you to come to the station

of course, replied lou with a drawl
wait a moment while i put on my shawl
for the night has a noticeable chill
but i always cooperate with old bill

outside a car was parked
a black sedan, unmarked
with lou settled in the back seat
it rolled away down the street

evincing no sign of regret
lou lit a cigarette
and watched as the streets unfurled
in the fog enshrouded world

the trip went on and on and on
were they going to drive until dawn?
though she did not break into song
lou knew that something was wrong

this was not the way to the yard
her captors played a strange card
all lou could do was wait
to learn the decree of fate

she felt they were near the river
and indulged in a ladylike shiver
at the sound of a midnight clock
the car pulled up to a dock

life is but a dream
it won’t do to shout or scream
and on that note, my friend
our tale comes to an end

a languid young lady named lou
wore a dressing gown of blue
she never knew what was false or true
and neither do i or you