Too Smart by Ed Shacklee

Too Smart

Before we got too smart, the world was flat –
above our heads, the music of the spheres.
What’s going round and round compared to that?

Local gods and demons babysat
our knuckle-dragging mums and dads for years
until we got too smart: the world was flat,

unrolled and supine as a welcome mat
with edges where the unknown disappears.
What’s going round and round compared to that

delightful sense of knowing where one’s at,
even Plato’s Cave? For it appears
that before we got too smart the world was flat,

and cooler till we broke the thermostat,
like hamsters on a wheel who’ve stripped the gears.
For what goes round, comes round, and that is that:

each up becomes a down, and like a gnat
a pesky doubt still buzzes in our ears;
for till we got too smart, the world was flat –
what’s going round and round compared to that?

by Ed Shacklee

Ed on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The villanelle form lends itself to the twisting, recursive philosophy that is the central theme of this poem.

The Possum by Ed Shacklee

The Possum



A light I stop for paints the asphalt red
and shows a possum isn’t playing dead;
a bump upon a country road, a white
and grayish remonstration of the night.

Feasting on the cricket and the tick,
unprepared and neither fierce nor quick,
a fuddy duddy relic, now run over,
who muddled through the thickets and the clover;

who had a dozen children in the spring
but now’s a flattened, matted, bloody thing
the vultures will descend on in the day,
and, like myself, has little else to say,

for sorrow like the headlights of a car
illumines for a moment what we are
till night returns and mathematics yields
half a dozen possums in the fields.

by Ed Shacklee

Ed on Facebook

Editor’s Note: It is always difficult to write a poem about roadkill—there is the grim subject matter, and the inevitable comparison to Stafford’s poem. However, this poem’s formal meter frames the situation within a philosophical context, without losing the emotional resonance of the experience.

Pushcart Prize Nominations – 2017

logoborderlite

I am happy to announce the following poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize:

Sonnet to negotiate peace with your dementia by Tracy Lee Karner

The Morning of My Madness Waking by Jim Zola

No I in Team by Ed Shacklee

The First Night by Devon Balwit

Moving Day by Alan Walowitz

After the Ghost Investigation by Christine Potter

Congratulations and good luck!

From the archives – No I in Team by Ed Shacklee

No I in Team

Inside of every hen there is an egg.
Inside of many hovels there’s a house.
In each and every beggar there’s a beg,
and soon, inside of kittens, there’s a mouse.

Within the vilest hater is a hat.
Perversions always have a bit of verse.
A man will grow inhuman, fate more fat,
by chopping her to bits inside a hearse.

There is no I in team, two eyes in I,
the devil is more evil than you know;
so hide a cask in casket when I die,
we’ll drink to death if God is short an O.

by Ed Shacklee

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, June 20, 2016 — by Ed Shacklee

 

Me, Tarzan by Ed Shacklee

Me, Tarzan

The camera pans from jungle to the plain:
while credits roll, we watch the plane ascend.
Young Weissmuller as Tarzan. Who was Jane?

Our hero scans the skies through clouds of pain
for her he’d fought gorillas to defend;
then, misty-eyed, the jungle from the plain,

his leafy kingdom where with might and main
he’d finally won her heart at story’s end.
He’d told her. He was Tarzan. She was Jane,

his lovely leading lady – he, her swain,
half man, half child, half ape, as Burroughs penned,
yet now he’s in the jungle, not the plane.

We’d searched for signs of intellect, in vain;
in the buff, with Cheetah for a friend,
he’d known two words, “Me, Tarzan.” Still, Jane

hoped secretly some Greystoke might remain
and show up in a sequel round the bend.
In London’s social jungle she’d explain
the finer points of Tarzan dating Jane.

by Ed Shacklee

Ed on Facebook

Editor’s Note: I watched a lot of the Tarzan television show as a girl, and this poem calls to mind the sense of delight I felt about those stories. Also, the iambic lines and rhyme in this villanelle are delicious.

If Wishes Were Horses by Ed Shacklee

If Wishes Were Horses

I wish there were an island flush with mangos and papayas
and natives plumed in feathers like the atavistic Mayas,
who’d sing the runic epics as they tended evening fires.
I wish there were an island on the sea;

and winds with piquant spices like the chili of El Paso
would blow upon the lively waves beyond the mild Sargasso,
with latitudes of freedom and a horse you couldn’t lasso
as fleet as any wind would come to me;

and I would give her carrots, sugar cubes, and bits of apple,
and by her wordless kindness on a back of silver dapple
I’d ride without a saddle on a horse you couldn’t grapple.
O what I’d give for such a thing to be;

for like the wind we’d travel on the piquant island’s beaches
and laugh when cynics caviled as we sought the outer reaches
beyond the judge’s gavel and the politician’s speeches,
as careless as a wind and fancy free.

We’d hide upon an island near a city made of granite,
just past the sooty towers on an overcrowded planet,
an isle that can’t exist outside of childhood dreams – or can it,
if what we wished had waking eyes to see?

by Ed Shacklee

Ed on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The lovely cadence of this poem deceives the reader into thinking the subject matter is mild. However, by the end, the true nature of the imagery slips out as the narrator’s voice is given teeth (a granite city, overcrowded planet, politician’s speeches).

Best of the Net Nominations – 2016

botncover

I am happy to announce the following poems have been nominated for the Best of the Net 2016:

The Year of the Dragon by Siham Karami
On Losing the Old Dog by Rae Spencer
Daffodils (Narcissus Jonquilla) by Kathryn Good-Schiff
Spiderwort by Marybeth Rua-Larsen
Age of Steam by Neil Flatman
No I in Team by Ed Shacklee

Congratulations!

From the archives – Necktie Party by Ed Shacklee

Necktie Party

He seemed to nod my way as the oak limb, bent
to hold the noose’s fruit, bent still lower
from the weight, as leaves along the bough
shook, like heads of serpents.

He seemed to gaze at what the night wind pointed
at, a view out west. The eyes went white,
vision turning sour in his head,
maybe, wanting

some light beyond the bonfire to show a way
past the twisting dance we’d set him to;
but no, there was no other way to go,
though God knows why.

The next day, in town, it was like a dream
scarcely breathed about among the decent folk,
or, Showed ’em, didn’t we, the boys’d say, talking
proud, which now seems

damned nonsense best left buried: except he turns
my way, an old man the night wind points out
to those white eyes, till I wake shouting
what nobody learned.

 

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, September 28, 2015 — by Ed Shacklee

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Carrion Flamingo by Ed Shacklee

The Carrion Flamingo

The carrion flamingo is an undead parakeet
with feathers tinged the iridescent pink of rancid meat,
whose wingspread is high-handed, while its flapping seems effete;
its hooded gaze is overcast with just a hint of sleet.

It lays an addled egg, abandoned just before it hatches.
Its heart looks like a casket or a book of soggy matches.
Its skin is pale and leprous – pocked with sores, it sheds in patches.
The smirking beak invites you, though you wonder what the catch is.

Some lair in mausoleums, others underneath a rock.
Their voices shake like rattlesnakes; one quails to hear them talk
about the corpses over which their sunset shadows flock,
and few sights are as ghastly as their limping, gimpy walk.

They stand as still as statues just before the chase is on,
and make folks blanch on mornings when they find them on the lawn,
carnivorous as hearses with the silken curtains drawn,
their plastic hues a mockery of rosy-fingered dawn.

by Ed Shacklee

Ed on Facebook

Editor’s Note: Imagining plastic flamingos as living birds only leads this poem back to the dead.

No I in Team by Ed Shacklee

No I in Team

Inside of every hen there is an egg.
Inside of many hovels there’s a house.
In each and every beggar there’s a beg,
and soon, inside of kittens, there’s a mouse.

Within the vilest hater is a hat.
Perversions always have a bit of verse.
A man will grow inhuman, fate more fat,
by chopping her to bits inside a hearse.

There is no I in team, two eyes in I,
the devil is more evil than you know;
so hide a cask in casket when I die,
we’ll drink to death if God is short an O.

by Ed Shacklee

Ed on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem is both amusing and disturbing (which is quite an accomplishment for twelve lines).