Hi, it’s phdesmond, and I’m very pleased that John and WaterGirl have given me this opportunity to show some of my work from over the years. Both my parents had read the poetry classics and were able to write light verse for occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. It’s a family tradition I kept up. I’m hoping you will enjoy at least some of my work!
We don’t forget the unjustly slain.
On the streets of Minneapolis, we saw another life destroyed,
prone on the pavement. Four policemen killed George Floyd.
A brute’s knee on his neck, a mob of blue knees on his back —
he died of asphyxiation and a fatal heart attack.
They’ll hear their verdict standing. I really want to see
all four cops convicted of murder and felony.
While we march for justice, the world can’t understand,
in our civilized society, why legal strangling isn’t banned.
At the Museum Café
For lunch I order matzo ball soup
before I tour the museum.
“How was it?” asks the waitress
as she wipes the table.
“It was light,” I say, “Airy.
A dense matzo ball
is like a stone in your stomach.”
She smiles. “Some people ask me
why it doesn’t have noodles, or carrots.”
Halfway through the exhibit
I reach the hollow boxcar
stenciled “Karlsruhe” on its side:
Karlsruhe, Rhineland hometown
of my German ancestors,
car that rolled towards Mauthausen,
crammed with Jews
from one of the
four hundred ghettos,
each with its traditions,
its folk songs,
its recipes for soup.
Various Political Poems
The most recent of these, an invective, was first published in chat right here on Balloon-Juice, on the weekend it became clear Biden had just won! The others date back decades.
An Inauguration Tune
Trump is gone, and none too soon!
Angry, smug, grotesque buffoon,
Queens brat trying to play tycoon,
piccolo posing as bassoon.
No more poison-gas balloon,
orange-caked, pale-eyed raccoon,
whose nightly hissing at the moon
has made this country his spittoon —
on January twentieth, at noon!
You who think the embryo
has a fully human soul,
you who call abortion sin —
hear the paradox of twins.
In the caverns of the loins
a sperm and egg have joined.
Soon the cell divides;
the cluster grows in size.
A future member of our race
drifts towards its nesting place.
What’s this? The cluster splits,
separates in equal bits.
Strange, but true —
what was one is two:
two tiny particles,
You who claim to speak for God —
don’t you find it rather odd
one egg became two twins?
Tell me when the soul begins.
At the moment of conception,
before their separation,
was there one soul, or two?
Does this problem puzzle you?
Was this a miracle:
two souls in one particle?
Or did one soul split
and half go in each bit?
Or do you think that sperms have souls?
Will you banish birth control?
Does it make you squirm
when I mention sperm?
Monks chanted “Tibi Deo”
as the Church judged Galileo,
but the earth still revolves,
and humanity evolves.
Black Body Radiation
Brothers and sisters, it makes me mad
when they use the word “black” to mean it’s bad.
The stock market crashes, and they blame it on us.
They call it “Black Monday” in the front of the bus.
It wasn’t my fault; I didn’t lose them a cent.
I have enough trouble just paying my rent.
But not for long — I found my path:
I take courses at night; I study science and math.
I walk into the college. They think I’m a looter
until I sit down to use the computer.
The lab supervisor turns benevolent
as my fingers dance on my instrument.
I solve the problem; I’m proud as hell.
My high school teacher taught me well,
so I know physics and calculus.
I know more than those suckers in the front of the bus.
I read it in my physics text:
black absorbs and white reflects.
Black fills up with energy;
white just shines and lets it be.
I’m here to tell the United States
that absorbed energy radiates.
And here’s one meaning of what I learned —
if you lean on black you might get burned.
I don’t care if you like it or not,
it’s a scientific fact that black is hot.
Without black body (hear me now!) radiation
this land would be an iceberg nation.
Today is the day, and now is the hour —
the country needs the thermal power
of thirty-five million dynamos.
It’s time to let my people glow.
I’ve always felt that a parody is sincere praise of the original poem, as well as an opportunity to say something new. The second one highlights my home town for the last fifty years, Cambridge, Mass.
La Belle Dame Sans Culottes
(After John Keats.) Read the original poem.
O, what can ail thee, macho man,
Alone and vainly swaggering;
The music’s stopped, the disco’s closed,
I met a lady at the bar.
We got to talking for a while.
Her hair was long, her skirt was short,
Her dancing wild.
As we salsa’ed in the crowd
I fell in love. She looked so fine.
And I observed beneath her dress
No panty line.
I took my little notebook out.
I asked “When can we meet again?”
But then she told me, “Sorry,
Her girlfriend showed up on the floor
And said, “We’d like to be alone.”
The two of them began to dance
And make sweet moan.
I trudged despondent to the bar
And told my buddies of my pain.
They cry’d, “La belle Dame sans culottes
Has struck again!”
And that is why I loiter here
Alone and vainly swaggering.
I’d go home but I feel like such
The People’s Republic of Cambridge
(after W.B. Yeats) (read the original: https://poets.org/poem/lake-isle-innisfree)
I’ll rise and take the T now to Cambridge-on-the-Red-Line,
and wear a kaffiyeh, bomber jacket, and beret.
I’ll find an apartment, a rent-controlled one-bedroom
to house my bike, my print of Che.
And I shall work for peace there, though peace comes very slowly.
How long will it take till oppressors all are smashed?
I’ll read magazines that stand up for the lowly,
be gender neutral, recycle trash.
I’ll rise and take the T now — it causes less pollution —
and settle in a city whose leftist roots are deep,
whose citizens still argue the need for revolution.
We wake; the country lies asleep.