Poetic Residue

By Bob Litton

NOTE TO READERS:  It has been several months now since I published a couple of my poems.  Most of the poems posted on this blog were written many years ago, when I was young and fancied myself a poet. One of two exceptions  is “Humanity’s Eye”, which I wrote and posted last October; I was surprised by its worthiness, since I have seldom felt any poetic impulse in many years and had concluded that I was all dried up in that art form. The other exception is “The Eumenides Revolt”, which was written last summer and posted in September.
My readers might not agree that “Humanity’s Eye” is as worthy as I believe it to be; that’s okay, for I have become accustomed to friends not appreciating my poetry as much as they do my prose. However, during my undergraduate years I wrote a couple of poems — “Blue Phoenix” and “The Cost of Living” — which drew some praise from a minor American poet who was a professor at one of our state universities (not one I attended). Those two poems were posted here last September.
     Now I have only two poems remaining from that long ago. Neither of them has earned nods, not even from my friends. Part of the reason for that, I believe, is their brevity: E.A. Poe argued that a poem can be too short as well as too long. However, some critics have claimed that Ezra Pound’s two-line verse “In a Station of the Metro” is one of the ten best American poems ever written: I do not agree.
     Another possible reason for my friends’ indifference is that they did not realize what I was trying to do. When reading any serious writer’s work, one should try to determine early on just what he or she is attempting to produce: What is its purpose? After doing that, one can gauge whether the writer has succeeded in reaching his or her goal. So, at the risk of insulting your intelligence, I will briefly relate what I intended when I composed these two brief poems.
     “The Cold War” is a bit of humorous whimsy. I enjoy puns and other extraordinary parallels in meaning. One day, as I was struggling mightily to conquer a severe cold, I realized that I was involved in a kind of war — a cold war — and how funny that imagery would be if conflated with terms of the geopolitical phenomenon so-called. Of course, my struggle with the head cold actually engendered images of a “hot” war, so one could mark that down as a demerit. But the point is that the whole production was done in fun and was meant to be funny.
     “Fantasia on the Sublime” was originally intended to be a longer poem — much longer. The idea for it came to me while I was reading a newspaper account about a whale that had wandered into an inlet near Seattle and apparently could not figure out how to extricate himself. For some reason I have forgotten, after I had composed the lines you will see here, I decided not to proceed any further. From a literary structural standpoint, I viewed the poem as an exercise in using “landlubber” imagery to describe phenomena on the ocean and in the sky. It is similar to my poem “How the Crow Conned the Owl” (posted in March of last year), where, in contrast to Homer’s similes, I used human images to describe bird behavior.
     I hope these clarifications will not impede your enjoyment of the poems below. Perhaps it is only because I am their “Daddy” that I cling fondly to them, but I will continue to do so to my dying day. I like them, and a writer is his own worst critic.
— BL  


THE COLD WAR


©1995, 2011 By Bob Litton

          Villainous usurper!  You’re massed within,

            Abetted by a treacherous nostril!

           How you’ve gained on me in my old age!

           Used to rout you in a single night,

           Perspiring under heavy quilts.

           Now the nights are four.

           It isn’t fair you’re allowed an equivocal age,

           While I must admit sincerity.

            In the fiercest onslaught of your typical siege

            You make me tremble with ague

            Until only the added misery of suffocating heat

            Burns you from your trenches in my flesh.

            Slowly you drip away,

           Yet I’m no victor–

           But a sweat-drenched battlefield.

           Imagining it’s over isn’t permitted;

           For your insidious regrouping forces,

          Driven underground,

          Secrete charges in my head;

           And these, ignited by an innocent spring breeze,

           Explode with a damnable “Achoo!”

 FANTASIA ON THE SUBLIME

©1995, 2011 By Bob Litton 

            Pacific at peace

            Seems a varnished, rockless earth; a sprouting of waves;

            And the wind, an errant plow, tills at butterfly pace.

            Herds of white buffalo-clouds graze and move on,

            Quiescent, inexorable,

            With grey bellies,

            Through their fenceless range.

            The sun, in decline, reigns without rule.

            Still, the lazy monarch,

            His throne ribbed with apathy,

            Smirks like a full-fed lion,

            Stretches over his wrinkled bed,

            And warmly

           Yawns.

 

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