The Folly of Living on Folly

art by Wesley Moore

The Folly of Living on Folly

With apologies to DuBose Heyward and George Gershwin[1]

Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined.

Tennyson, “The Lotos-eaters”

Summertime,
And the living is queasy,
Traffic’s stalled,
And the rent’s sky high.
Our landlord’s rich
And constantly bitching,
So, c’mon, sweet baby,
Let’s stiff the bitch and fly.

Up ‘26,
there’s the hipster haven of Ashville
with its majestic mountains
‘neath a blue Carolina sky.
But come to think of it,
We’re pretty awful lazy.
So, never mind, sweet baby,
We’ll stay right here and get high.


[1] Gershwin wrote the song “Summertime” on Folly Beach.

For Caroline, on Her Birthday

Caroline Tigner Moore

Although she doesn’t publish, my wife Caroline Tigner Moore is an elegant, accomplished poet, one who embraces Archibald MacLeish’s dicta in “Ars Poetica.” MacLeish argues that poems should embody abstractions in images rather than merely stating themes.

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

Archibald MacLeish from “Ars Poetica”

Caroline is a craftsperson, one who eliminates every extraneous word so that her final product is imbued with meaning.

For example, check this link out.

She prefers fixed forms, villanelles, sonnets, even limericks.

So perhaps foolishly, I have attempted to channel her methodology in a sonnet celebrating her birthday.

For Caroline, on Her Birthday

Modern poets eschew silken sonnets,
consider them passe, clichéd, old hat –
like antiquated Easter bonnets –
but Caroline Moore doesn’t buy into that.

When she puts her pen to paper, she seeks
to frame her words within a fitting form,
to render vaporous thoughts concrete,
even as they billow, swirl, and swarm

inside her head ¬– sonnets, villanelles –
fixed forms that demand strict cohesion,
apt rhymes and rhythmic syllables
befitting terrain and season.

Oh, how she has rejuvenated my life,
My discerning poet, my word-wielding wife!

Happy Birthday, my love!

Happy Birthday, my love!

Sonnet-ish: “What Can I Do, Dad?” “Nothing, Son”

Richard Tuschman, Pink Bedroom (Still Life at Night)

“Sonnet-ish: What Can I do, Dad?” “Nothing, son.”

He quit watching the news, quit his book club,
quit shaving. Let the subscriptions lapse.

Sleep became a hum, dreams dubbed
like foreign films, the phlegmy rasp
of his breathing a cause of concern
not broached by Mama or me.
He did trudge off to lecture
until the dean dismissed him.

Near the end he called out from his bed
Mama was out running errands. “Yes sir?”
I said, cracking open the door. “Sleep, I need to sleep.”
I was fifteen. “My dreams,” he said,
“all take place in this room, ghosts,
floating above the bed, gossipy whisperers.”

Wintry Mix

Here’s a brief video of me reading “Wintry Mix” at the George Fox’s Singer/Songwriter Soap Box at Chico Feo on 31 January 2022. The poem is printed below.

Wintry Mix

I’m not a fan of the wan light of winter, the weakening light of day, the marrow-penetrating 
wind off the river, the fallen leaves’ decay. 

I’m not a fan of hypocrisy, the politician’s flipflop, the post hoc ergo propter hoc array of fallacious thinking I hear every day.

I’m not a fan of fantasy, ogres, princesses, dragons, flying carpets defying gravity, flagons containing elixirs, mages with conical caps, sages holed up in caves.

I am a fan of poetry, though, even the darkest of wintery verse, Dylan Thomas’s father’s curse, John Keats’s death lament – that shiny black hearse in reverse.

The Freedom to Offend

The Freedom to Offend

“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” ― Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“[. . .] and above it the mouthing of orators,
the arse-belching of preachers.” – Ezra Pound, “Canto XIV”

Okay, so we don’t want to ban AK-47s because that would be unbarring the door of tyranny. On the other hand, we don’t want our precious, delicate children exposed to depressing historical events like the Native American genocide, slavery, the Holocaust – perhaps even Sandy Hook – because the truth might make them feel uncomfortable.

I’ll tell you what made me feel uncomfortable when I was teaching: crouching under a Harkness table stifling a fart with my AP Lit students during a live shooter drill.

And, O, my Brothers and Sisters, we read many a bannable book in those AP classes.

Oedipus Rex – parricide, incest, sacrilege

The Canterbury Tales – vulgarity, profanity, nudity, plagues

Hamlet – fratricide, adultery, vulgarity, a corpse-strewn stage

Crime and Punishment – murder, prostitution, crushing poverty, alcoholism

Madame Bovary – serial adultery, suicide, insanity

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – atheism, masturbation, prostitution, adolescent rebellion

The Sound and the Fury – promiscuity, suicide, racial epithets, abject cruelty

The Song of Solomon – premarital sex, vulgar language, murder

The Hand Maid’s Tale – dystopia, sexism, theocratic cruelty

And that’s not even considering the poetry we read.

Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
`Those breasts are flat and fallen now
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.’

`Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,’ I cried.
‘My friends are gone, but that’s a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart’s pride.

`A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.’

~WB Yeats

That’s it.

Thanks for listening to my Ted Rant.

Wintry Mix

I’m not a fan of the wan light of winter, the weakening light of day, the marrow-penetrating wind off the river, the fallen leaves’ decay. 

I’m not a fan of hypocrisy, the politician’s flipflop, the post hoc ergo propter hoc array of fallacious thinking I hear every day.

I’m not a fan of fantasy, ogres, princesses, dragons, flying carpets defying gravity, flagons containing elixirs, mages with conical caps, sages holed up in caves.

I am a fan of poetry, though, even the darkest of wintery verse, Dylan Thomas’s father’s curse, John Keats’s death lament – that shiny black hearse in reverse.

The Joys of Sneezing

. . . weeds, in wheels shoot long and lovely and lush 



                      		Hot springs’ vented vapors spew skyward 
                   		in cloudy swirling images to be carved in wood
								chiseled in stone, 
			personified.

                                 		
				First Gaia, 
				then Maia,

Oh God, 
	Zeus is on the loose,
		Isis is in crisis, 
                                						Noah drunk and Jonah swallowed, 								
				Jesus, Vishnu, Jah-Jah 

								
				JAH-CHOO! 

				Gesundheit!

Pedestrian Poetry

Pedestrian Poetry[1]

Too clever is dumb – Ogden Nash

Jesus and Caesar sported sandals,

Shakespeare and Burbage buskins.

Ruskin owned a pair of patten leather ankle boots,

But in the garden, Adam and Eve wore nothing.


[1] Pedestrian: person walking; pedestrian: lacking inspiration, commonplace, dull. Both apply to this poem.

You, T.S. Eliot

Ronald William Fordham Searle: Sick and Dying: Cholera, Tarso Camp, 15 September 1943, Two Months After Illness. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/24373

Note: Words in bold provide passageways to complete texts alluded to in the poem, which was also influenced by the John Prine song “Hello, in There.” By clicking on the audio file at the very bottom of the post, you can listen to the song in its entirety. 

a reading of the poem

You, TS Eliot[1]

Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

TS Eliot, “Gerontion

He died alone in a hospice house
Hallucinating for a day and a half,
Surrounded by a swirl of phantoms,
A misremembrance of things past.

His funeral, too, was poorly attended,
Empty pews here and there,
The eulogy, merely perfunctory.
No one shed a single tear.

Too long a life ¬– calamitous.
No fun being one-hundred-and-one,
Outliving every single peer,
His wife, his daughter, and his son.


[1] The title echoes Archibald MacLeish’s “You, Andrew Marvell,” a very different type of meditation on death. 

“Hello in There” John Prine