Canto 6 of Wesley’s Inferno

Three months before my wife died of Lymphoma, I began as a sort of mental escape exercise to write a parody of Dante’s Inferno in terza rima, a verse form very inimical to rhyme-starved English. In fact, even though Dante used terza rima in his Commedia, I know of no English translation of that great work that employs it.

My plan was to write nine cantos, each consisting of nine stanzas, to render an abbreviated trip through the nine circles of hell, having as my guide the Roman poet Catullus, rather than Virgil, who led Dante through the nether regions.

Alas, my poem, now two thirds completed with this latest canto, is a failure because – guess what – writing terza rima in English is nearly impossible unless you’re a master like Shelley (see his “Ode to the West Wind”). Some of it comes off as silly, for which I apologize.

Nevertheless, I’m determined to finish it, even though I myself don’t pretend to know what it means, and cast it out into the ones and zeroes of the Internet.

Canto 6

As the rutted road like a corkscrew twisted downward
through darkness, the cries of lamentation
abated, and a more martial clash we heard

as we entered the circle of anger, an infestation,
of spiteful wretches screaming, biting, gouging,
their wounds never-healing, a damnation

deserved, according to Catullus, slouching
behind the wheel of the hell cab. “Violence
is the bane of humanity. See that man crouching

behind the rock there, sliced and bleeding?
That’s none other than Pee Wee Gaskins,
podunk mass murderer, receiving

forevermore the very same tortures he wrought
upon his brethren, and over there Joseph Goebbels,
leper-like, oozing sores, with agony forever fraught.

We were in the small intestines of hell,
as it were, the stench overpowering,
the horrors too horrible to tell

with words, the previous circles towering
above us, the worst still yet to come.
I closed my stinging eyes, myself cowering

in the backseat of the cab. “Oh, for a drop of rum,”
I sighed, and Catullus smiled, pulled out a flask,
“Here,” he said, reaching back, “please have some.

It’s not much to ask
after what you’ve been through,
donning the sackcloth with a mouthful of ash.

All the News That’s Fit to Spit

All the News That’s Fit to Spit

Rush Limbaugh has succumbed to cancer,
He who often spoke ill of the dead.
Will our comedians do him justice
Or bite their satiric tongues instead?

Deep in the heart of frigid Texas,
the unregulated grid is on the fritz.
So, Ted Cruz packed his bags for Mexico,
And booked a suite at the Cancun Ritz.

In other news:

US Covid cases are on the wane,
The Reaper taking a bit of a breather,
Which, of course, is very good news
For maskless frat boys and grizzled geezers.

So that’s it for this episode of the All News That’s Fit to Spit,
brought to you, as always, in doggerel.
See you next week, same time, same blog site.
Have a wonderful weekend, y’all.


[1] The day after Kurt Cobain committed suicide, Limbaugh said, “Kurt Cobain was, ladies and gentleman, a worthless shred of human debris.” After Jerry Garcia’s death, Limbaugh called him, “just another dead doper. and a dirt bag”

Stuck Inside of Peoria’s Suburbs with the Arden Forest Blues Again





Dear Abby, 
 
My girlfriend disses me 
when I put “thee” 
in my confessional poetry. 
 
“So Seventeenth Century,” 
she says, “the antithesis of hip, old-fashioned, out of time.”
 
which triggers 
            Bill Wyman’s bass line
                        in the juke box of my mind.
 
You’re out of touch my baby,
My poor old-fashioned baby,
I said baby, baby, baby, you’re out of time.
 
“No way you can publish this rubbish,”
she says, “too loosey goosey, sugar britches.
 
“Try not rhyming every other word. 
The syllables should interlock
like a choo-choo train,
and go chug-chug-chug-chugging,
in a straight line,
 
not go staggering 
               all over the page, 
like a sentimental drunk 
                smashed on Toostie Roll wine.”
 
Otherwise, she’s sweet as pie, my girlfriend,
and treats me nice. 
 
Any advice?
 
 
Signed,
 
Stuck Inside of Peoria’s Suburbs with the Arden Forest Blues Again
 
Dear Stuck,
 
A wise man once wrote:
 
A poem should be palpable and mute   
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless   
As the flight of birds.
 
So, yeah, your GF has a point.


 

Ah-One, Ah-Two

Ah-One, Ah-Two

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

WB Yeats, “Among School Children”

What is it, this incessant need,
to dribble ink upon a page
in musty old forms best abandoned,
better suited to an earlier age?

Yet – [sigh] – here I am once again,
cranking up the old gramophone,
herding trochees two by two,
like a cotillion chaperone

attempting to teach the Cha Cha Cha
to kids who think they know it all,
who vamp in front of mirrors at home
pretending brooms are microphones.

A Truth of Blood

“Eurydice” by Alain Le Junter

A Truth of Blood

What harm? Men die — externally —
It is a truth — of Blood —
But we — are dying in Drama —
And Drama — is never dead —
Emily Dickinson

The dream done, my eyes open,
it hurt to be awake.

Outside my bedroom window
faint predawn light seeping
through the dark fabric of the sky.

My late wife had been alive just now,
in the dream her death merely a dream.

I had held her in my arms,
explaining to her that I had dreamed she’d died,
but she hadn’t, no, she was smiling,
warm, lying next to me in bed,

so lifelike, so palpable,
I thought as I lay there afterwards
that her spirit had come to me.

I closed my eyes and fell asleep again,
and, as if in a new episode of the ongoing series of my sleep,
she reappeared, sitting in a chair in an unfamiliar room.

Not smiling now, possessing the wisdom of the dead,
she explained in her soft Georgia accent
that we were out of synch,
that our ages no longer matched,
and it was true, she was young again,
in her twenties, but I was old and stiff.

[poof]

I rose from bed,
and looked down upon sleeping Caroline,
lying there beautiful, a breathing angel,
her hair luxuriant, disheveled, cascading
over the pillow that she embraced,
like a lover in a Leonard Cohen song.

The light strong now,
the sky outside the window bright blue,
my dead wife, like Eurydice,
tumbled back into black oblivion.

I struggled into my corduroys,
puddled on the floor next to the bed,
and tiptoed out, quietly opening
and closing the bedroom door.

Descending the stairs,
I shook my head, waved my arms,
to buck myself back
into the land of the living.

Time to brew a pot of coffee
and retrieve the morning paper,
which lay where flung,
next to a clump of lantana,
the newspaper sheathed in plastic,
protected from the dew,
which had evaporated, had disappeared
into the seeming emptiness of air.

Live Reading of “Loose Cadences for Loose Cannons” (a Horatian satire inspired by Alexander Pope)

“chaos of thought and passion all confused” – Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man”

Here’s me reading my satirical poem on the Capitol Insurrection at Chico Feo’s Singer/Songwriter Soapbox 18 January 2021.


Here’s the text of the poem:

Loose Cadences for Loose Cannons: A Capitol Insurgent Doggerel Taxonomic Commode Ode

The fever swamps of the radical right
Teem with an abundance of exotic wildlife,

A vast array of various species
Thriving on a regimen of bovine feces.

Look! A QAnon Shaman, bare-chested, toting a spear,
Sporting a smile instead of a sneer,

Stomping around the Capitol wreaking havoc
Fueled by a diet that’s 100% organic.

Then there’s the less colorful Klete Keller,
Who looks to be a regular sort of fellow,

Tall, wholesome-looking, clean-cut, strong of jaw,
A gold-medal winner on the wrong side of the law.

Off duty cops, insurance agents, adjunct professors
Among the herd of headweak aggressors,

A motley crew: CEOs, politicians, welders, sailors,
Some dwelling in mansions, others in trailers,

And militia men galore, bearded, cosplaying Rambo,
Their lingua franca crazy batshit mumbo jumbo,

All exhibiting a disdain for natural selection,
Maskless as they swarm to overthrow the election,

Recording their crimes with selfies and live streams
Taking self-incrimination to ridiculous extremes.

Yet when the FBI arrives to initiate their torment,
They whine and say, “I was just caught up in the moment.”

Like I said, the fever swamps of the radical right
Teem with an abundance of exotic wildlife.

The S.A.D. Roundel Rag Revisited

Charles E Burchfield Winter Sun

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

roundel: an eleven-line poem consisting of three stanzas – a quatrain, tercet, quatrain. The opening line becomes a refrain of the fourth and 11th lines. It is an English variation of the roundeau introduced by Algernon Charles Swinburne.*

Rhyme scheme: abaa bab abaa


The S.A.D. Roundel Rag

Snide winter suns don’t heat
on their blustery ride;
flashily indiscrete,
snide winter suns don’t heat.

Winter suns glide,
bold but effete,
expansive as they slide

over the edge into the deep.
No matter how you search for the bright side,
that lackluster light spells defeat –
snide winter suns don’t heat.


*When in his thirty-eighth year, William Butler Yeats’s sister informed him that Swinburne had died, Yeats declared, “Now I am king of the cats.”

Loose Cadences for Loose Cannons: The Capitol Insurgent Doggerel Taxonomic Commode Ode

The fever swamps of the radical right
Teem with an abundance of exotic wildlife,

A vast array of various species
Thriving on a regimen of bovine feces.

Look! A QAnon Shaman, bare-chested, toting a spear,
Sporting a smile instead of a sneer,

Stomping around the Capitol wreaking havoc
Fueled by a diet that’s 100% organic.

Then there’s the less colorful Klete Keller,
Who looks to be a regular sort of fellow,

Tall, wholesome-looking, clean-cut, strong of jaw,
A gold-medal winner on the wrong side of the law.

Off duty cops, insurance agents, adjunct professors
Among the herd of headweak aggressors,

A motley crew: CEOs, politicians, welders, sailors,
Some dwelling in mansions, others in trailers,

And militia men galore, bearded, cosplaying Rambo,
Their lingua franca crazy batshit mumbo jumbo,

All exhibiting a disdain for natural selection,
Maskless as they swarm to overthrow the election,

Recording their crimes with selfies and live streams
Taking self-incrimination to ridiculous extremes.

Yet when the FBI arrives to initiate their torment,
They whine and say, “I was just caught up in the moment.”

Like I said, the fever swamps of the radical right
Teem with an abundance of exotic wildlife.

Live Reading of “Drunk Me Some Wine with Jesus”

I hadn’t planned to read last night but was coaxed on stage where I belched my poem
“Drunk Me Some Wine with Jesus” to a somewhat inattentive audience who were [cue backwoods evangelical voice] more in-TENT on gluttony and idle chatter than they was in hearing that our Lord was a wine-bibber and a comm-U-nist.

And who could blame them?

Here’s the text of the poem:

Drunk me some wine with Jesus
At this here wedding in Galilee.
He saved the bestest for second
And provided it all for free.

So I quit my job on the shrimp boat
To follow him eternally,
No longer bound by then blue laws
enforced by the Pharisee.

And we had us some good times
Till then Pharisees done him in.
Ain't got no use for the religious right
After I seen what they done to him.

So when Paul Saul stole the show,
I sort of drifted away
Because he never quite understood
What Jesus was trying to say.

He was more like a Pharisee,
Dissing this, cussing that
Giving the womens a real hard time,
Gay-bashing and all like that.

So I drink at home most nights now
Trying to do some good,
offering the beggars a little snort
Whilst praying for a Robin Hood.

Drunk me some wine with Jesus.
I was the besets day I'd ever seen.
Drunk me some wine with Jesus,
Partying with the Nazarene.

By the way, the poem is sort of a riff on Ezra Pound's 
"Ballad of the Goodly Fere."

Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Simon Zelotes speaking after the Crucifixion

Ha’ we lost the goodliest fere o’ all
 For the priests and the gallows tree?
 Aye lover he was of brawny men,
 O’ ships and the open sea.

 When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man
 His smile was good to see,
 “First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
 “Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he.

 Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
 And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
 “Why took ye not me when I walked about
 Alone in the town?” says he.

 Oh we drank his “Hale” in the good red wine
 When we last made company,
 No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
 But a man o’ men was he.

 I ha’ seen him drive a hundred men
 Wi’ a bundle o’ cords swung free,
 That they took the high and holy house
 For their pawn and treasury.

 They’ll no’ get him a’ in a book I think
 Though they write it cunningly;
 No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
 But aye loved the open sea.

 If they think they ha’ snared our Goodly Fere
 They are fools to the last degree.
 “I’ll go to the feast,” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
 “Though I go to the gallows tree.”

 “Ye ha’ seen me heal the lame and blind,
 And wake the dead,” says he,
 “Ye shall see one thing to master all:
 ’Tis how a brave man dies on the tree.”

 A son of God was the Goodly Fere
 That bade us his brothers be.
 I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men.
 I have seen him upon the tree.

 He cried no cry when they drave the nails
 And the blood gushed hot and free,
 The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
 But never a cry cried he.

 I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men
 On the hills o’ Galilee,
 They whined as he walked out calm between,
 Wi’ his eyes like the grey o’ the sea,

 Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
 With the winds unleashed and free,
 Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
 Wi’ twey words spoke’ suddently.

 A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
 A mate of the wind and sea,
 If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
 They are fools eternally.

 I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin' they nailed him to the tree.



 

Live Reading of “Corky Cain, Washed-Up Surfer Sings of Dead-End Hedonism

The text of the poem appears below the video

Corky Cain, Washed-Up Surfer Sings of Dead-End Hedonism

sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal

William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”

My bleached blonde hair has disappeared,
leaving a freckled scalp in its stead.
Two black bags bulge beneath my eyes,
All rheumy and rimmed with red.

They say sagacity is recompense.
(I’d settle for a dollop of common sense).
Hey, little lady, could you spare me a smile?
(Or at least a wink instead of a wince?)

No, when it comes to wisdom,
I’m an old lecher banging on a drum,
cruising the boulevards looking for love
in the suburban sprawl of Byzantium.

Playing the fool, the pantaloon,
howling for hours at the hollow moon,
waking in the morning with a broke down head,
knowing that never will be all too soon.

Old friend, Willy B, sing me a song
that will drown out the barbarous gong
of the death knell clanging in my brain
you, the king of love gone wrong.