Posts Tagged ‘ballad stanza’

Upside Down

August 11, 2017

 

Upside down beside the walk,
a gray squirrel hung on a tree,
a tag on his ear, a twitch in his nose,
and a sad little look for me.

“Squirrel,” I said, “You’re gray as lead.
Who stuck that tag on thee?
Some student crew has a project due
for a class in zoology.”

To hang in the air as dull as a bear
who sleeps in a sewer drain.
To stare at a man who is reaching a hand
to staple a tag by your brain.

To twitch like a sprout that is twisting about
under a new-paved lane.
To look down at me here under your tree
and not even know to complain.

  

First published in Mostly Maine.

 

Mikey Feeds a Squirrel, Florida, 1950's - photo probably by Bernie Smetzer

Feeding a Squirrel, Florida, 1950’s

 

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A Kansas Anthem

August 6, 2017

 

The wind and dust blew up the hill,
        the dust from the wind fell down.
And I awoke on the windless side
        all clothed in a fine dust gown.

“Oh see,” said I to a passerby,
        “my suit of Kansas Gray.
Come feel the loft of the down so soft
        our sky has thrown away.”

“I swear,” swore he, “by a cottonwood tree
        run through with a fencing foil,
your Kansas dust smells sharp as rust
        and feels like tractor oil.

“I’ve been to Maine and I’ve been to Spain
        and filled my sight with riches,
but my eyes are filled in Kansas land
        by dirt blown out of ditches.”

Oh hey hum hey for a Kansas day
        when the sky is gray and swirly.
Oh naw de naw for the gritty jaw
        that turns bright strangers surly.

 

First published in Midwest Quarterly.

 

Discussion

I wrote this poem after a small dust storm blew through Lawrence, Kansas. In eastern Kansas it was a rare event and also a wonderful reminder of the nature of the land where we lived.

After centuries of use, the ballad stanza remains a wonderful asset for the poet, especially when the poem has an element of humor. Meter and rhyme are natural choices for those who want to dance with language and life. They contain a magic formula for joy more powerful than any happy pill.

While meter and rhyme work less well in serious poetry today, poetic rhythms (as opposed to meter) and subtle rhymes can create beauty and enhance significance, even for readers accustomed to prose.

But as they sing in the theater, “Tragedy tomorrow, Comedy tonight!”

 

Bernie Smetzer and the chickens

Dad with his Chickens

 

Bernie Smetzer and the chickens 2

Dad and the chickens

Bernie Smetzer reins in the chicken

Dad reins in the chicken