What Happens

Harlem

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

— Langston Hughes, 1951

***

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fc/LangstonHughes.jpg
Langston Hughes, 1936, by Carl Van Vechten. Public domain.

#AtoZChallenge 2020: Q Is for Quotation and a Queen

 

From William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene iv

 

MERCUTIO: O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
Her traces, of the smallest spider web;
Her collars, of the moonshine’s wat’ry beams;
Her whip, of cricket’s bone; the lash, of film;
Her wagoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on curtsies straight;
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees;
O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometimes she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as ‘a lies asleep,
Then dreams he of another benefice.
Sometimes she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled much misfortune bodes.
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage.
This is she!

 

#AtoZChallenge 2020: E Is for Egregious Error

All right, let’s try again.

In “B Is for Bowser,” I announced that I would write about a mistake I’d made. In Part 1, I said I would get to the heart of the matter the next day. Then things (Day C and Day D) happened. I didn’t get to it the next day or the next.

On Day E, however, my egregious error will be revealed.

I’ll recap (“B Is for Bowser”) as fast as I can:

There’s an old narrative poem entitled “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” about young Bessie, who saves her lover from a death sentence by climbing to the top of the bell tower and clinging to the bell’s clapper, preventing curfew from sounding when the rope is pulled.

Famous in its time, the poem is almost forgotten now. Its best-known modern use might be Katharine Hepburn’s recitation in the movie Desk Set.

Now to the Egregious Error:

Years ago, I ran across a parody of “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight”—”Bowser Must Not Bark Tonight.”

It tells the story of Bessie, a young woman who fears the family dog will chase away her boyfriend when he comes courting. Papa says the dog must guard the melon patch and therefore cannot be tied. To ensure that John Henry gets all the way to the front door, Bessie takes matters into her own capable hands.

I don’t know why I thought about the poem—maybe I was running through mental files for a B-word and came up with Bowser—but I love the parody and thought it a likely topic for a post, so, before looking for “Curfew,” I googled, Bowser must not bark tonight.

Nothing.

Bowser shall not bark tonight. Nothing. Bowser will not . . .  Added poem and parody and other likely keywords. Nothing.

Or not exactly nothing. The very first hit, before all the methods of teaching a dog not to bark, was Exodus 11:7—”But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.” (New International Version)

Talk about dreams shattered and balloons burst. Google, access point to the universe, was a big, fat liar. Second only to the knothead who failed to enter “Bowser” into the database.

Coming up: one spoiled B-post. “Curfew” alone was nothing. Without the parody, why bother?

In a nasty state of mind, I went ahead and googled “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight.” And from Amazon.com, access point universe of retail, popped up Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight’ & ‘Towser Shall Be Tied Tonight’ Audible Audiobook – Unabridged.”

Oops.

“Bowser Must Not Bark Tonight.”

Towser Shall Be Tied Tonight.”

Bowser = dog’s name.

Bowser rimes with Towser.

Bowser / bark = alliteration = Towser / tied.

A mistake, a mistake, a palpable mistake. But a reasonable one.

Had anyone been looking over my shoulder, I’d have blushed from shame. Because I was unobserved, I ate a Cadbury egg and determined to turn shame into a story.

Authorship of “Towser Shall Be Tied Tonight” is attributed to Anonymous, so, assuming it’s in the public domain, I include the entire poem. Blogger William Lee says, “As far as I know the writer is still unknown and if still living probably wishes to remain ‘Anon.’ but I would have loved to meet him or her because it is the kind of poetry I like.” I’d love to meet the author, too.

 

Towser Shall Be Tied Tonight

Slow the Kansas sun was setting,
O’er the wheat field far away,
Streaking all the air with cobwebs
At the close of one hot day;
And the last rays kissed the forehead
Of a man and maiden fair,
He with whiskers short and frowsy,
She with red and glistening hair,
He with shut jaws stern and silent;
She with lips all cold and white,
Struggling to keep back the murmur,
“Towser shall be tied tonight.”

“Papa,” slowly spoke the daughter,
“I am almost seventeen,
And I have a real true lover,
Though he’s rather young and green;
But he has a horse and buggy
And a cow and thirty hens, – –
Boys that start out poor, dear Papa,
Make the best of honest men,
But if Towser sees and bites him,
Fills his eyes with misty light,
He will never come again, Pa;
Towser must be tied tonight.”

“Daughter,” firmly spoke the farmer,
(Every word pierced her young heart
Like a carving knife through chicken
As it hunts the tender parts) – –
“I’ve a patch of early melons,
Two of them are ripe today;
“Towser must be loose to watch them
Or they’ll all be stole away.
I have hoed them late and early
In dim morn and evening light;
Now they’re grown I must not lose them;
Towser’ll not be tied tonight.”

Then the old man ambled forward,
Opened wide the kennel door,
Towser bounded forth to meet him
As he oft had done before.
And the farmer stooped and loosed him
From the dog-chain short and stout;
To himself he softly chuckled,
“Bessie’s feller must look out.”
But the maiden at the window
Saw the cruel teeth show white;
To herself she fiercely whispered, – –
“Towser must be tied tonight.”

Then the maiden’s brow grew thoughtful
And her breath came short and quick,
Till she spied the family clothesline,
And she whispered, “That’s the trick.”
From the kitchen door she glided
With a plate of meat and bread;
Towser wagged his tail in greeting,
Knowing well he would be fed.
On his well worn leather collar,
Tied she then the clothesline tight,
All the time her white lips saying:
Towser shall be tied tonight.”

To the melon patch she took him
As he bounded at her side
To an apple tree she led him.
And the knot she firmly tied.
“There’s Pa’s melons, you must guard them
All day long you stay right here
When John Henry comes to see me
He’ll be safe and have no fear”
And her steps were light and happy
As she thought of joy so bright
When her lover would be coming
Towser would be tied tonight

Up the path the young man sauntered
With his eyes and cheeks aglow;
For he loved the red-haired maiden
And he meant to tell her so.
But her little brother, William
In a fit of boyish glee,
Had untied the slender clothesline,
From the harvest apple tree.
Then old Towser heard the footsteps,
Raised his bristles, fixed for fight, – –
“Bark away,” the maiden whispers;
“Towser, you are tied tonight.”

Then old Towser bounded forward,
Passed the open kitchen door;
Bessie screamed and quickly followed,
But John Henry’d gone before.
Down the path he sped most quickly,
For old Towser set the pace;
And the maiden close behind them
Showed them she was in the race.
There’s the clothesline, can she get it?
And her eyes grew big and bright;
Then she sprung and grasp it firmly;
“Towser must be tied tonight.”

Often times a little minute
Forms the destiny of men.
You can change the fate of nations
By the stroke of one small pen.
Towser made one last long effort,
Caught John Henry by the pants,
But John Henry kept on running
For he thought that his last chance.
But the maiden held on firmly,
And the rope was drawn up tight,
All the time her white lips saying
“Towser must be tied tonight”

Then the father heard the racket;
With long strides he soon is there,
Where John Henry and the maiden,
Crouching, for the worst prepare.
At his feet John tells his story,
Shows his clothing soiled and torn;
And his face so sad and pleading,
Yet so white and scared and worn,
Touched the old man’s heart with pity,
Filled his eyes with misty light.
“Take her, boy, and make her happy, – –
Towser shall be tied tonight.”

***

“Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight” sometimes appears as “Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight.”

***

The Blogging from A to Z Challenge master list appears here. It’s up to 510 blogs. Something for everyone.

***

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

#ATOZ Challenge: B Is for Bowser

 

In my A post I mentioned the mistake I made in signing up for the A to Z Challenge: I registered my blog as “Author/Writer (craft of writing, stories, memoir),” instead of “Other and Miscellaneous.”

It really doesn’t matter. I mean, there are mistakes, and there are mistakes.

For letter B, I’m writing about another of my mistakes. It’s more of a mistake. But I can’t go right to the heart of the matter. There’s backstory to be dealt with. If you’ll be patient for just a little while, I’ll get there.

Here goes.

I planned, as much as I ever plan these posts, to write about a parody of the narrative poem “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” written in 1867 by Rose Hartwick Thorpe, when she was sixteen years old.

Set in 17th century England, the poem tells the story of Bessie, a young woman whose lover, Basil Underwood, has been imprisoned by the Puritans and sentenced to die that night at the sound of the curfew bell. Oliver Cromwell is expected to arrive that night, but after the bell has rung. Bessie begs the sexton not to ring the bell; he says he’s never failed to ring curfew and that he won’t fail to ring it tonight. But Bessie is determined to save her lover. The next lines describe her heroic actions.

Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her thoughtful brow,
As within her secret bosom, Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh,
‘At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must die.’
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, faintly spoken. ‘Curfew must not ring tonight!’

She with quick step bounded forward, sprang within the old church-door,
Left the old man coming slowly, paths he’d trod so oft before.
Not one moment paused the maiden, But with eye and cheek aglow,
Staggered up the gloomy tower, where the bell swung to and fro;
As she climbed the slimy ladder, on which fell no ray of light,
Upward still, her pale lips saying, ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

She has reached the topmost ladder, o’er her hangs the great dark bell;
Awful is the gloom beneath her, like the pathway down to hell.
See! the ponderous tongue is swinging; ’tis the hour of curfew now,
And the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring? No, never! Her eyes flash with sudden light,
As she springs, and grasps it firmly: ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

Out she swung – far out. The city seemed a speck of light below ―
There twixt heaven and earth suspended, as the bell swung to and fro.
And the sexton at the bell-rope, old and deaf, heard not the bell,
Sadly thought that twilight curfew rang young Basil’s funeral knell.
Still the maiden, clinging firmly, quivering lip and fair face white,
Stilled her frightened heart’s wild throbbing: ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

It was o’er, the bell ceased swaying; and the maiden stepped once more
Firmly on the damp old ladder, where, for hundred years before,
Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed that she had done
Should be told long ages after. As the rays of setting sun
Light the sky with golden beauty, aged sires, with heads of white,
Tell the children why the curfew did not ring that one sad night.

When Cromwell arrives, she tells him her story, and, touched by her heroism, he lets Basil live. Basil emerges from the prison expecting to die but instead finds Bessie holding his pardon. And—

In his brave, strong arms he clasped her, kissed the face upturned and white,
Whispered, ‘Darling, you have saved me, curfew will not ring tonight.’

For years, “Curfew” was exceedingly popular: A favorite of Queen Victoria, it provided inspiration for a play and and for three silent movies. It was recited by one of the characters in Anne of Green Gables. It also serves as the basis for chamber music composed by Richard Cohn for the Music & Magic Lantern Slides project. View a performance on Youtube.

Now. I know I haven’t gotten to Bowser and Bleh yet, but the hour is late, and I am tired, so I’m off to bed.

In other words, B Will Not Be Writ Tonight.

Texas Spring: Loveliest of Flowers

 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

~ A. E. Housman, “Loveliest of Trees”

Image by gmoyer via pixabay.com

Lines That Shut Your Eyes

 

Twelve-year-old Emma Graham and elderly Mr. Root sit outside the grocery store in a little town in the mountains of Maryland, discussing poetry. From Martha Grimes’ Fadeaway Girl:

“What’s the poem, Mr. Root?”

. . . It was a paperback, not very thick. I saw it was the poetry of Robert Frost. “But I thought you didn’t like Robert Frost. You were all against ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.’ Remember?”

“That one, yeah. But he’s wrote a couple of good ones. I kind of put ’em in between Emily’s, you know, . . .”  Mr. Root cleared his throat and intoned in a sing-song fashion:

This saying good-by on the edge of the dark—

It shut my eyes, that line did, as sure as someone passing a hand over them. “Oh,” I said.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

He read on, although I was still back there on the edge of the dark.

Then he came to:

I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard’s ar-bo-re-al plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.

My eyes snapped shut again. I had never heard anything so fearfully sad. I bit my lip to keep from crying. I could almost see it, the trees too young to be left alone, waiting for someone or something to come, and finally knowing no one ever would.

“Yep,” said Mr. Root. “Some of his, well, I’d say he knows what he’s talking about. Straight talk. That’s what Frost was really good at, none of those namby-pamby poems about Greek urns and stuff. Nope”—he held up the book—”just plainspoken, to-the-point words about nature and stuff.”

“Mr. Root,” I said, “I don’t think he’s plainspoken. He means a lot more than what he seems to be saying.” . . .

Mr. Root pushed his feed cap back on his head and scratched his forehead. . . .

“What do you mean by that?” His eyes narrowed as if I were insulting him.

I didn’t want to talk about it; I don’t know why I had to open my big mouth. “Well, I think he means something different from what he’s saying. Or seems to be saying.” . . .

I asked Mr. Root if I could borrow the book for a minute, and he handed it to me.

“And could I have a piece of paper and use your pencil?”

He tore off a little sheet and handed that to me, too, along with his pencil. “Whatcha doin’?”

“Just copying.”

I wrote the last lines on the paper and folded it up and stuck it in my change purse.

***

Are there any lines of poetry or prose that shut your eyes?

For Valentine’s Day: John Anderson, My Jo

John Anderson, My Jo

Robert Burns

Song and glossary follow

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fb/PG_1063Burns_Naysmithcrop.jpg
Portrait of Robert Burns, by Alexander Naysmith, 1787. Via Wikipedia. Public domain.

John Anderson, my jo, John
When we were first acquent;
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo.

John Anderson, my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither;
And mony a cantie day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither:
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo.

 

 

Sung by Christy-Lyn

 

***

Meanings of most of the words from Scottish dialect are obvious, but here’s a glossary just in case.

jo-sweetheart
acquent-acquainted
bonny-beautiful
brent-polished new
beld-bald
snaw-snow
pow-head
thegither-together
cantie-great
one anither- together
maun totter down-must climb down

The Maven

2018-10-20 ttm pixabay poe cc0 pd writer-17565_640

One more time.

*****

Why? Because–A friend, calling to confirm David and I would meet her and her husband the next day for the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center, reported her house was being leveled for the second time in three years: “There are thirteen men under my house.”

I hooked up Edgar Allan Poe with the number thirteen and house with Usher and wrote the following verse. Halloween approaches, so I’m posting it again.

Note: Tuck and Abby are my friends’ dogs.

Another note: Maven means expert. I looked it up to make sure.

THE MAVEN

To G. and M. in celebration
of their tenth trimester
of home improvement,
with  affection.
Forgive me for making
mirth of melancholy.

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.

“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,

Only this, and nothing more.”

 

 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,

And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,

Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,

Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.

“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.

He’ll squash like an accordion door.”

 

 

“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,

Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.

While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,

Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.

Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore

Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,

Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.

As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.

“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,

Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore

Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

 

But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.

“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.

Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,

Crawling round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,

Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Señor,

Get thee out or thee’s done for.'”

 

“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet

Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”

Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,

Held I up the quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,

Nameless there forever more.”

 

Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,

Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.

“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.

It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.

Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor

At a slant forevermore.”

 

At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding

From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.

And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,

And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.

“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score

And begone forevermore.”

 

 

But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,

And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.

“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,

For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,

And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,

“Lady, you got no rapport.”

 

“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,

Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?

Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,

And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”

But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.

Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”

 

He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region

While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.

Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile

I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.

“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor

Winter, spring, forevermore.”

 

So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering

And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.

And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair, and dream the thumping

And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.

For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor

Shall be lifted—Nevermore!

 

Little Google Fiber or, Quick! Get Up and Put Some Clothes On!

Tomorrow we end our relationship with Google Fiber. At the end of two years of excellent connectivity, I repost the verse I wrote to celebrate the beginning.

With apologies to James Whitcomb Riley

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Google Fiber’s come to our house today,
To scramble through the attic and drag cables on the way,
And cut some boards and drill some holes and stuff some cables that
Will link up with some other stuff beside the thermostat;
But first the upstairs closet had to be cleared out for space,
The downstairs china cabinet moved and china all displaced,
“And Kathy can’t just lie in bed,” they said, “or lounge about,
‘Cause we’ll see her in her jammies

Ef she

Don’t

Watch

Out.”

 

 

I heered ’em in the attic, flippin’, flappin’ like a bat,
And a-scritchin’ and a-scratchin’, like a sheetrock-eatin’ rat,
And the warnin’ that they said we’d get? Like knockin’ on the door,
And sayin’, all polite-like, “Ma’am? Here’s me and all my corp
Of drillers and of draggers, we don’t want to scare you none
By creatin’ a cacophony before your sleep is done,
So please wake up, get up out of bed. It puts us in a pout
When we see you in your jammies

‘Cause you

Don’t

Watch

Out.”

 

 

But, no, the warning never came, and I was in still in bed,
Although my husband came upstairs an hour ‘fore and said,
“Dear, don’t you think you’d better rise and put some lipstick on
And stretch your arms and stretch your legs and give a drowsy yawn,
And don some clothes and stuff those PJs in the nearest vase,
Cause those raggedy old things reflect on us a sad disgrace,
And the Google guys will run and flee. You’ll cause a general rout
If they see you in your jammies

‘Cause you

Don’t

Watch

Out.

 

 

Though I am a thoughtful wife and always try to please,
My lids were heavy, and I stayed in bed and took my ease,
And so it was that I was still in Morpheus’ embrace
When the scritchin’ and the flappin’ up above me did take place.
And I sprang up from my bed and ran, but threw up neither sash,
Nor did I fly to ingle-side to brush aside the ash.
I screeched, “That isn’t Santa, it’s the Google men, no doubt!
And they’ll see me in my jammies

Ef I

Don’t

Watch

Out!”

 

 

So I scrabbled and I flipped and flapped and sounded like that rat,
Although louder and lots faster, like unto a scalded cat.
“I’d be ready now,” I said, “if only Google had been nice,
And not made me move the china so my muscles needed ice,
And my body and my soul cried out, ‘This raveled sleave of care
Must be knit up, and sore labor’s bath I needs must have! O swear
That Google will not taunt me for a loathesome layabout
‘Cause they see me in my jammies

Ef I

Don’t

Watch

Out.”

 

 

Exciting stories sometimes end in flaming denouements.
This one has a climax that is really, really blah.
I got up, brushed my hair, found clothes, as usually I do,
And dressed and, looking ‘neath the bed, dragged out my other shoe,
Went downstairs, and stared at the wall, and checked email, and when
The Google man knocked on the door, and David came, ’twas then
I said, “Ha ha ha, you cannot say, you early-rising lout,
That you saw me in my jammies,

Cause

I

Watched

Out.”

 

***

By Unknown – Van Allen, Elizabeth J. (1999). James Whitcomb Riley: a life. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253335914., p. 197, Public Domain, 

The poem “Little Orphan Annie” was written by James Whitcomb Riley in 1885. The original title was “Little Orphant Annie,” but an error in a later printing changed the name.

English: James Whitcomb Riley, known as the Ch...
James Whitcomb Riley, known as the Children’s Poet, poses with a group of children for a photo to be included in a book published for the Indiana state’s centennial anniversary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The poem was inspired by Mary Alice Smith, a child who came to the home of Riley’s parents as a “bound” servant to earn her board and keep. She worked alongside Mrs. Riley and the other children and helped with housework. The Rileys referred to her as a guest and treated her as one of the family. In the evenings she told ghost stories to the children, including James, the future poet.

In the 1920s, Mary Alice Smith inspired the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” and the Raggedy Ann doll created by Johnny Gruelle.

The poem is in the public domain. It appears at https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/little-orphant-annie

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information shared here.

Thanks to James Whitcomb Riley for writing the delightful poem that popped into my head as soon as I heard the Google men scrabbling around in the attic. Read in just the right way, the last four lines can scare the stuffings out of a bunch of eight-year-old girls at a Brownie troop meeting.

***

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!
							 
Onc’t they was a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,--
So when he went to bed at night, away up stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wasn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was thist his pants an’ roundabout--
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!
							 
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’one, an’ all her blood an’ kin;
An’ onc’t, when they was “company," an’ ole folks was there,
She mocked ‘em an’ shocked ‘em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They was two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!
							 
An’ little Orphant Annie says when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parents, an’ yer teachers fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!

The Time Has Come

 

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things.
Of cloture votes— and civil rights— and Martin Luther Kings.”

~ Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”

 

“The Walrus and the Carpenter” was in my seventh-grade literature book. I fell in love with it included it in my poetry notebook, written in ink with a then-newfangled cartridge pen. It took a lot of cartridges to copy it perfectly. I  drew an illustration from the book  on the front cover. I also memorized it.

President Lyndon B. Johnson by Arnold Newman WHPO. Public domain. via Wikipedia.

About a year later, I was delighted to find the political cartoon in a newspaper—the San Antonio Express-News or the Austin American Statesman, whichever was delivering to my house fifty or sixty miles away. I cut it out and pinned it on my wall with pictures of my cow. Today it surfaced.

For those too young to recognize them, the Carpenter represents President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Walrus represents Everett Dirksen, Senate Minority Leader, who helped write the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968. Both Dirksen and the Walrus had exceedingly curly hair.

Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (center) by Warren Leffler. Public domain. via Wikipedia.

Not long after finding the cartoon, I learned that a cousin who visited every summer had memorized the poem, too. For three consecutive years, while waiting for her plane back to Los Angeles to board, we walked up and down the concourse of the San Antonio International Airport reciting “The Walrus and the Carpenter” in unison. We had plenty of time, because Continental was usually two to three hours late. The airport didn’t see much traffic in those days and the concourse was practically empty, so only a few travelers looked at us funny.

The entire poem appears at Poets.org https://poets.org/poem/walrus-and-carpenter

Below is a link to a dramatic reading by Roy McCready on Youtube.

 

 

 

The Past Alive

 

It used to be that the world had rested entirely on her father’s shoulders. He was the steady one, the safe one—the person she could depend on when her mother was in a state.

But even the thought of her mother, now, gave her a tugging feeling of loss, and she often found herself missing that shy look her mother used to send from under her eyebrows when she hoped to be forgiven for something, and her lighthearted, girlish laugh, and her floating soprano voice singing, “Write me a letter, send it by mail . . .”

Oh, sounds were what brought the past alive most clearly! “Take my hand,” she heard the back of the room boys crooning, “I’m a strange-looking parasite . . .” And then other, more anonymous voices, blurred and staticky like those ancient radio waves rumored to be traveling endlessly out into space. “One potato, two potato, three potato, four,” and “He-e-re’s Johnny! and “Instinctively, the arthritis sufferer rubs the afflicted area.”

From his bed across the room Peter gave a sudden sharp sigh, and Willa started. It took her a second to remember who he was.

~ Anne Tyler, Clockwork Dance

***

But your voice– never the rushing
Of a river underground,
Not the rising of the wind
In the trees before the rain,
Not the woodcock’s watery call,
Not the note the white-throat utters,
Not the feet of children pushing
Yellow leaves along the gutters
In the blue and bitter fall,
Shall content my musing mind
For the beauty of that sound
That in no new way at all
Ever will be heard again.

***

But the music of your talk
Never shall the chemistry
Of the secret earth restore.
All your lovely words are spoken.
Once the ivory box is broken,
Beats the golden bird no more.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay, excerpt from “Elegy”

The Maven

2018-10-20 ttm pixabay poe cc0 pd writer-17565_640Why? Because–A friend, calling to confirm David and I would meet her and her husband the next day for the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center, reported her house was being leveled for the second time in three years: “There are thirteen men under my house.”

I hooked up Edgar Allan Poe with the number thirteen and house with Usher and wrote the following verse. Halloween approaches, so I’m posting it again.

Note: Tuck and Abby are my friends’ dogs.

Another note: Maven means expert. I looked it up to make sure.

THE MAVEN

To G. and M. in celebration
of their tenth trimester
of home improvement,
with  affection.
Forgive me for making
mirth of melancholy.

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.

“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,

Only this, and nothing more.”

 

 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,

And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,

Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,

Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.

“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.

He’ll squash like an accordion door.”

 

 

“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,

Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.

While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,

Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.

Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore

Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,

Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.

As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.

“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,

Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore

Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

 

But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.

“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.

Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,

Crawling round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,

Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Señor,

Get thee out or thee’s done for.'”

 

“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet

Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”

Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,

Held I up the quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,

Nameless there forever more.”

 

Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,

Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.

“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.

It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.

Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor

At a slant forevermore.”

 

At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding

From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.

And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,

And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.

“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score

And begone forevermore.”

 

 

But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,

And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.

“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,

For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,

And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,

“Lady, you got no rapport.”

 

“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,

Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?

Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,

And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”

But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.

Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”

 

He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region

While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.

Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile

I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.

“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor

Winter, spring, forevermore.”

 

So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering

And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.

And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair, and dream the thumping

And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.

For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor

Shall be lifted—Nevermore!

April in Texas: Loveliest of Flowers #AtoZChallenge

 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

~ A. E. Housman

***

I’ve signed on to participate in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month, and this is Day A: April.

Content was never in question: I post A. E. Housman’s “Loveliest of Trees” nearly every year at bluebonnet time as a reminder to seize the day, to get out and see beauty while it’s here–while we’re here.

Be sure to read–or at least scroll–to the bottom of the page. There’s an unexpected treat–not just a bunch of blue flowers.

Here’s a link to the A to Z Challenge Master List-links to the nearly 700 blogs taking part in the challenge.

A short analysis of  “Loveliest of Trees” appears at Interesting Literature.

Info about 2018 bluebonnet sightings can be found at the Texas Wildflower Report on Facebook.

Paintings by Julian Onderdonk.  http://texaspaintings.com/JulianOnderdonk.htm

… by Robert Wood. http://radstudies.tumblr.com/post/146477004552/robert-william-wood-american-1889-1979-texas

… by Porfirio Salinas. https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Porfirio+Salinas+Bluebonnet+Paintings&id=61B8119D2E9E1BC63C9D221D5774776F07B2D13B&FORM=IDBQDM

 

 

And…

*****

To see what other bloggers wrote about on Day A, click A2Z.

 

My 3.14 Day Poem*

 

With thanks to Abbie Taylor,
who told me about Pi Day Poems,
and to Shakespeare, whose sonnet
provided the form.

“Mosaic” by Holger Motzkau licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0  via Wikimedia Commons

 Anti-Ode on Pi

 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou‘rt such a strange shape, legs much like a chair,

A top so curved there’s just no stinkin’ way

It’d seat a current Cabinet secretaire

Or former. Neither dost thou have a crust

Of lard and flour or crumbled crackers graham

That Grandma or Nabisco make, or just

Some chocolate or a blob of strawb’ry jam.

Thou art a cold, hard number made to hurt,

Confuse, and boggle students young and old,

A plethora of digits that exert

Thy pow’r and squeeze, with rude and vile chokehold.

Thou three point one four one six, now I say

I’ll not compare thee to a summer’s day.

 

 

 

 

 

For the poem’s sake, 3.1416, rather than 3.14159, is used in the third stanza. Because it is not March 14, 2016 (3-14-16), 3.14 is used in the title.

 

 

 

To see 100,000 digits of pi, go to http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/~huberty/math5337/groupe/digits.html

To see 1,000,000 digits of pi, go to http://www.piday.org/million/   (This page just goes on and on.)

 

 

 

Photograph: Mosaic outside the Mathematics Building at the Technical University of Berlin.