Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

November 29, 2009

All-World Wrestling Poetry—a collection of 52 wrestling poems

Filed under: 17th century poetry, 17th century poets, 18th century philosophers, 18th century poetry, 19th century poetry, 19th century poets, 20th century poetry, 20th century poets, 21 century poetry, 21st century poets, Abe Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, aging, Alfred Noyes, Allah, amateur wrestling, American poets, Ancient Greek poetry, Andy Jones, angel, animal poetry, Anonymous, Antaeus, art, aspiration, Athena, athletes, athletics, automobile accidents, award, Babilu, bear wrestling, black ice, bodies, Canadian poets, Catherine Edmunds, Charles Wesley, coaching, Cole VanOhlen, college recruiting, college wrestling, collegiate wrestling, control, corn, Creative Commons, culture, dance, David Hernandez, dead poets, death, death poetry, Dennis Riley, Der Schauende, dialect poetry, dog poetry, dogs, Don Schaeffer, Drax Ireland, Edmund Waller, Emily Dickinson, Enceladus, English poets, Euphronios, European poetry, European poets, Facebook, failing, fasting, female wrestling, folkstyle wrestling, freestyle wrestling, G.C. Smith, gay poetry, Gilbert Pye, God, Goddess Athena, Granby roll, grappling, Greco-Roman wrestling, Harold Von Schmidt, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Heracles, Herakles, Hercules, Hiawatha, high school wrestling, Homer, human contact, humorous poetry, hunger, husking, Iliad, illustrations, illustrators, intimacy, Islam, Israel, Jack Armstrong, Jacob, Jakobs Kampf mit dem Engel, Jane M'Lean, Jayson Iwen, Jean Starr Untermeyer, Jeff Kass, John D. Berry, John Jeffire, John S. Taylor, John Timpane, Judy Swann, Julius Caeser, Justin Bowser, Kimberly Dark, Lincoln, Lori Desrosiers, losing, maize, martial arts, MassWrestling.com, Michael D. Snediker, Mondamin, Muhammad, Muhammad Afzal Mirza, Muhammad Amir Sheikh, Muslim, narrative, narrative poetry, Nestor, occasional poetry, Olympic Games, Olympic wrestling, Olympics, online poetry, online poetry writing, painting, Pamela Uschuk, Patroclus, pinning, poems, poetry, poetry forums, poetry translation, poetry workshops, poetry writing, poets, practice, preparation, prize, Prophet Muhammad, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rakana, Rane Arroyo, religion, religious poetry, Rembrandt, Rembrandt van Rijn, revenge, reversal, Rilke, Robin Hood, Robyn Hode, Rukana, Rukhana, Rus Bowden, Scottish poetry, sexuality, Sir Walter Scott, sports poetry, sports recruiting, Steve Meador, Steve Parker, Steven Woods, students, Sumo, Sumo wrestling, Susan Kelly-Dewitt, Susie DeFord, Tabitha Wilson, take down, Terreson, The Iliad, The Song of Hiawatha, touch, William Ernest Henley, women wrestling, wrestling, wrestling coach, wrestling poetry — Clattery MacHinery @ 9:06 pm

_____

   

Dreier Carr's High School Folkstyle Wrestling at the 2006 Glenn Invite

   

_____

   

The poems in this collection are on wrestling—the collegiate and amateur styles—but also how we wrestle with life, where we find wrestling in our lives, plus our gods, prophets and heroes past, those who have wrestled the classic bouts. It is modern and boundary-busting, and at the same time about tradition, a duality significant to both the poetry and wrestling communities. It is not about professional wrestling. Although that would make a wonderful project on its own, there is not enough poetry about amateur wrestling, the collegiate, Olympic, and folk styles.

The rest of this intro will be of interest to you if you would like to use any of the artwork or poetry yourself, and if you are interested in why such a collection came together—maybe for the first time. If not, then scan down to below Catherine Edmunds‘ 2009 drawing called “Greek wrestlers,” and begin reading. If you are looking for a particular poet’s work, or to see if it is included, simply click “Ctrl-F” on your keyboard. Here is a list of the living contributing poets you will find:

        Rane Arroyo
        John D. Berry
        Rus Bowden
        Kimberly Dark
        Susie DeFord
        Lori Desrosiers
        Susan Kelly-DeWitt
        David Hernandez
        Drax Ireland
        Jayson Iwen
        John Jeffire
        Andy Jones
        Jeff Kass
        Steve Meador
        Muhammad Afzal Mirza
        Steve Parker
        Gilbert Pye
        Don Schaeffer
        Muhammad Amir Sheikh
        Michael D. Snediker
        G.C. Smith
        Judy Swann
        Terreson
        John Timpane
        Pamela Uschuk

In lieu of bios, links to the contributors’ web sites are provided from their names. If you would like to reach them, most of the time you will find contact information there. If not, e-mail me (lowelldude@aol.com), and I will try to connect you.

The works in this collection fall under Creative Commons—Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. This way, as you share these poems, the poets’ names remains attached, so that they continue to get credit for their work as it is passed around. In the spirit of this, each piece of artwork used below has just beneath it, as part of the image, an attribution that includes what the work is, who made it, and when. This Creative Commons agreement also protects the artists and poets from someone else making money from their works, while cutting them out. You’ll need permission for such a commercial venture. It allows, however, for you to feel free to share the works, to keep the poems handy and pass them around, and speak them at events. If you have sought these poems out for noncommercial use, wonderful!, please write the poet a thank you, but the answer is already yes.

A few years back, when I was blogging daily at Bud Bloom, November arrived, and the poetry posting necessarily slowed down, as wrestling season was about to begin. My son Dan was wrestling in college at the time, and I was a moderating contributor at MassWrestling.com, working on a comprehensive directory of all collegiate wrestlers from Massachusetts, in order that wrestlers, their family, and friends, could see how their high school wrestlers were faring in college, even if they were still active. Part of this, was to create a comprehensive list of wrestling colleges around the country, which was shared with other wrestling forums in other states. I made a brief post on the poetry blog called Wrestling With Poetry in November. I wanted to include wrestling poetry in that blog, and found some in a translation of Homer’s Iliad, but had difficulty finding it elsewhere. Since creating that blog post, I then noticed that many others who go online in search for “wrestling poetry”, come up with my post. And I always felt that that post was not allowing the searchers to find the jackpot they were looking for. Thus, there is demand, but short supply. This blog post is a wrestling poetry jackpot.

Back in July, I made a call for submissions of new and recent wrestling poems, by posting at over 20 wrestling forums, over 20 poetry forums, and to over 2500 members of Facebook. The response has been remarkable, as you can read for yourself below. And a high percentage of these gifted poets, have been or still are wrestlers or members of the wrestling community themselves. With these poems by living poets, I have merged classics. Included also are fresh translations of classic poems, and renditions of scriptural texts.

My thanks go to all the contributors listed above. Each have been a pleasure to work with. My thanks also to those who have guided this project with ideas, such as Joyce Nower, who turned me onto Emily Dickinson’s many wrestling poems, and Dennis Greene, who reminded me of the classic wrestling scene in Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha.” Thanks also to you for finding these poems, for shaking hands with them, and taking the time to read them, even to grapple with them when you hear the metaphoric whistle. It’s your match now, your time to enter the ring.

C.

   

_____

   

Catherine Edmunds' Greek Wrestlers, 2009

   

_____

   

   
by Jeff Kass

    White Plains High and Yale University wrestler, 1980-85
    WPHS coach, 1988-90

   
All wrestlers practice failing

   
        We need to know what to do
        when we’re getting cranked.

        Inevitably, we will be on our backs.

        Somebody will be tougher, somebody will be quicker, somebody
        will be strong enough to knock us flat.  It’s called looking at the lights
        as if when we’re horizontal and helpless, we’re also gazing at paradise.

        All I know is it’s hot down there.  It stinks.  The friction of your head rubbing
        against the mat could start a bonfire.  The guy who’s decking you is breathing
        in your ear, a rush of panting grunts.  His sweat drips in your hair and your
        girlfriend is watching from the bleachers as his muscles glisten and you are
        buried.  Your teammates are groaning and urging you to keep fighting
        but secretly they doubt you won’t surrender and the referee is cutting
        the air at smaller and flatter angles to signal the shrinking breadth
        between the mat and your shoulders and he poises to slap, he poises
        to slap and that is why every day in practice we must drill and rehearse
        for failure.

        It’s called bridging.  Make your neck a great spoon stirring the soup
        of your head.  Stir it left.  Stir it right.  Hold it.  Hold it.  He will be a ten-
        ton slab trying to break you flat—you must resist, your neck must insist
        no, with your neck no, with your neck no, you must train your neck
        to insist NO.

   
Previously published in Anderbo

   

   

_____

   

   
by Terreson

   
Antaeus’s Son to His Father’s Killer

   
        Here we are, my mercenary Greek,
        back at the same crossroads
        where you bested my father.
        The ground when you pinned him down
        is what defeated you in
        hold after hold or until
        you found the way to filet his strength,
        the way a fisherman’s instinct
        cleans flesh from the bone of earth.

        That’s when you bettered him, pressing him, his feet loose,
        to your chest, enjoying his death.

        But I am not like him whose daughters
        are my mother (earth, air, fire, and water).
        I am the inbred, an avatar
        thread through elements, and whose
        original sin is my source of strength.

        Come to me please, Herakles.
        I wish to press you to my chest
        and see your eyes bulge out when you meet
        my father’s face in each hero’s moment
        defining his one hero’s defeat.

        Revenge is such a useless emotion.
        I don’t want your death; just your lost look
        in the echo of my father’s eyes on the mat.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Artists wrestled here!
        Lo, a tint Cashmere!
        Lo, a Rose!
        Student of the Year!
        For the easel here
        Say Repose!

   

                110

   

_____

   

   
by Gilbert Pye

   
The Ballad of Rukhana

   
        Many people challenged Muhammad at wrestling
        (they didn’t realise he was divine;
        they thought he was an ordinary bloke).

        He pummelled skull, scapula and spine,
        ripped ligament from bone, loved pestling
        puny wrong-believing bodies until they broke.

        One day Rukhana, hideous, colossal, hairy,
        strongest of the Arabs, challenges Muhammad to a bout.
        Muhammad accepts.  Bets are placed.

        The outcome is never in doubt
        (insh’allah); at first both men are wary,
        looking each other over, tense, the taste

        of raw testosterone on their lips;
        then, exponent of the sacred art,
        Muhammad makes his move, nostrils aglow

        with the smell of Rukhana’s skin and heart:
        charge, grapple, throw,
        and the infidel describes a glorious ellipse

        through the air and falls to earth like a kite
        when the wind ceases suddenly as if by decree.
        Muhammad prostrates himself before Allah, Allah

        nods at Muhammad evasively;
        Rukhana and his corner exhibit that pallor
        you see on the face of the better man having lost a fight.

        The crowd go wild, beating their chests, cheering,
        ululating, howling, miming the winning move, bearing
        the victor aloft, cavorting through the souk

        in a tumult of piety and teeth, secretly tearing
        up their betting slips.  Look!
        Allah winks and fades.  He’s disappearing!

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Because I could not stop for Death—
        He kindly stopped for me—
        The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
        And Immortality.

        We slowly drove—He knew no haste
        And I had put away
        My labor and my leisure too,
        For His Civility—

        We passed the School, where Children strove
        At Recess—in the Ring—
        We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain—
        We passed the Setting Sun—

        Or rather—He passed Us—
        The Dews drew quivering and chill—
        For only Gossamer, my Gown—
        My Tippet—only Tulle—

        We paused before a House that seemed
        A Swelling of the Ground—
        The Roof was scarcely visible—
        The Cornice—in the Ground—

        Since then—’tis Centuries—and yet
        Feels shorter than the Day
        I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
        Were toward Eternity—

   

                712

   

_____

   

Rembrandt van Rijn's Jakobs Kampf mit dem Engel, 1660

   

_____

   

   
by John Timpane

   
Beholder

a translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Der Schauende”

   
        I tell the storm is coming on:
        My anxious windows bear the beat
        Of branches after tedious days.
        I hear the distant things say truths
        That without friend I do not bear
        And without sister cannot love.

        There goes the all-reshaper storm,
        Through the forest, through all time
        And everything is ageless now:
        The landscape, like a verse from Psalms
        Is purpose, heft, eternity.

        Since what we wrestle with is small
        And what contends against us great,
        Let the great storm subdue us, more
        As all things in the world do; then
        We would be distant, never named.

        Our victory is in the small,
        And when we win, the smaller we.
        The Endless, the Superlative
        Does not consent to bend to us.

        The Angel of the Testament
        Came to the wrestlers.  Metal match:
        When their contending tendons stretched
        It felt beneath his fingers like
        The strings of deepening melody.

        The man this Angel overcame
        (He often won without a fight)
        Retired upright and energized,
        Made great by that hard hand, which shaped
        Him new, as if to recreate.
        The vanquished finds a victory
        Not tempting. How he grows is to
        Be pinned by ever-greater gods.

   

   
by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

   
Der Schauende

   
        Ich sehe den Bäumen die Stürme an,
        die aus laugewordenen Tagen
        an meine ängstlichen Fenster schlagen,
        und höre die Fernen Dinge sagen,
        die ich nicht ohne Freund ertragen,
        nicht ohne Schwester lieben kann.

        Da geht der Sturm, ein Umgestalter,
        geht durch den Wald und durch die Zeit,
        und alles ist wie ohne Alter:
        die Landschaft, wie ein Vers im Psalter,
        ist Ernst und Wucht und Ewigkeit.

        Wie ist das klein, womit wir ringen,
        was mit uns ringt, wie ist das groß;
        ließen wir, ähnlicher den Dingen,
        uns so vom großen Sturm bezwingen,—
        wir würden weit und namenlos.

        Was wir besiegen, ist das Kleine,
        und der Erfolg selbst macht uns klein.
        Das Ewige und Ungemeine
        will nicht von uns gebogen sein.
        Das ist der Engel, der den Ringern
        des Alten Testaments erschien:
        wenn seiner Widersacher Sehnen
        im Kampfe sich metallen dehnen,
        fühlt er sie unter seinen Fingern
        wie Saiten tiefer Melodien.

        Wen dieser Engel überwand,
        welcher so oft auf Kampf verzichtet,
        der geht gerecht und aufgerichtet
        und groß aus jener harten Hand,
        die sich, wie formend, an ihn schmiegte.
        Die Siege laden ihn nicht ein.
        Sein Wachstum ist:  der Tiefbesiegte
        von immer Größerem zu sein.

   

   

_____

   

   
for the people of Whitefish, Montana

   
by Pamela Uschuk

   
Black Ice

   
        I

        How easy it is to slip.
        Slowing for a switchback’s glazed curve, I
        catch the radio’s news:
                                                    a school bus carrying wrestlers
        from Browning to Whitefish
        over this same unrelenting glare
        has slammed into a tanker
        jacknifed across both lanes.  Then flames
        killing nine in the quick cold.

        Along the polished carbon dip
        and swell of the Blackfoot River, I drive
        over ice so darkly transparent
        the pavement is a well
        whose varnished shaft pulls me sliding,
        an awkward creature
        away from home.

        What needs our sorrow?
        Or passed between the stunned drivers
        when the bus brakes locked
        in that short skid?
        During the first thoughtless seconds, boys
                                                                  becoming men
        dragged friends from the sudden fire, then
        watched, helpless as rocks dislodged by current,
        those they couldn’t reach, their screams lost to
        wind biting across the dreaming world.

        II

        To drive far in this weather—
        the afternoon half-blasted by wind gray as old wood—
        invites hypnotic dreams.
                                                      I recall checking
        the rearview mirror to see
        your farewell shiver, then shrink in silver light.  Love,
        how often we’re forced apart.
        Nothing is so visible as this ice,
        black-humored, a stoic beyond desire.

        III

        There is nothing I can offer
        those boys as healing as their daring, their hearts.
        Tomorrow, I teach poetry in a high school
        not far away.  I slow
        cursing these roads hunched spinal
        with no shoulders for escape.
        Listening to the tick of studden tires on ice,
        I know how fragile the traction
        holding us, what suffering
        edges induce.

        In the furrowed rush of black water
        Frost-grained waves
        grind back into themselves,
        intent on motion to avoid the final freeze across.
        Smoothing rocks, crisp hulls of caddis,
        stone flies, last summer’s storm-rendered windfall,
        the river carves its deeper trough
        widening its embrace.

        IV

        Like a snow bank bursting, snow buntings startle
        from my tires, threading
        the river’s rough hem.
        I envy the birds’ close escape
        as they ascend—
                                         moth fluttery, sudden confetti
        folding black on white
        above the snow-flocked highway—
                                                                 safe to the wild shore.

        Below the indifferent grade
        the current endures.  In dim light
        its dark arms turn from themselves, deceptive
        as the familiar lover.
        I can almost hear water’s porcelain stampede
        against an iced log above rocks
        that bump gratefully inside the swirl
        or hold their own.

        Only the small ceremonies
        of comfort and soaring can cure.
        Unable to build roads for safety, I will
        each speeding log truck, each
        oil tanker back-skidding
        to stay in its narrow lane,
                                                     to grip what can’t be held.
        I wonder what job is worth
        these long winter drives, clinging to slick surfaces
        unpredictable as the metereology of the heart.

        Even though my eyes burn
        tired of the constant play of gray light
        across black ice, there is no time to rest.
                                                       I drive through
        this wilderness against the curve of pavement
        following the river and its restless strain.

   
Previously published in Poetry Magazine and by Wings Press in her book Scattered Risks

   

   

_____

   

Harold Von Schmidt's There Was a Man--Abe Lincoln Licks Jack Armstrong, for Esquire, 1949

   

_____

   

   
by John Jeffire

    1995 NAIA national collegiate coach of the year

   
Coach Talks to the Wrestling Team the Day
Before the Eastside Match

   
   
Wrestling room air thick
as an amazonian afternoon
stinkheavy with years
of sweat that not even buckets of
uncut bleach can defeat.
I was still three pounds over
my weight class before practice
and I’m grateful
for more sprints back and forth
from padded wall to padded wall
wading through 90 degree fog
in two t-shirts and three sweatshirts
and two pairs of longjohns
under my sweatpants
sweating, sweating, ounce by ounce
closer to weight, but coach
calls us in and orders us
to take a knee.
His right ear a piece
of popcorn flesh glued
to the side of his head
his eyebrows rubbed off from
years of skullgrinding
his nose crooked as
a broken arm of lightning
his knees crisscrossed
by crazed scartissue worms
he walks like
a wheelchair is days away
but somehow he wrestles us like
a landmine eating handgrenades
exploding our bodies
across the mildewed mats.
We love him
like a father
especially those of us
who have no fathers.
He speaks.
We listen.
The coach from State, he begins,
is gonna be at the match tomorrow.
He’s recruiting Hendry from Eastside,
none a you dumbasses, but he’s
an old pal a mine.

I look over at LaDuke who
looks at Brophy who looks
at Washington the heavyweight . . .
we hate Hendry
defending state champ who stole
Kraznicki’s girlfriend last summer
at our town’s Dairy Queen
none of us could ever beat him
but we can take Eastside as a team.
Now, any a you jokers
ever think about college?

Sweat drips down my nose
onto the rubber mat.
I look over at LaDuke who
looks at Brophy who looks
at Washington the heavyweight . . .
none of us has thought of college.
LaDuke, who has failed Freshman English
twice and lives in the metal shop, though,
says, Yeah, I thought about it,
and even coach knows he’s lying.
Yeah?  Coach says. So what exactly
you want to study, LaDuke?

Sweat drips down his nose.
He thinks.
He answers,
I dunno, maybe buildin’ stuff.
Something like a smile
creases Coach’s scarred mouth.
We smile, waiting for the verdict.
Building stuff, huh? asks Coach
then he shows us that ragged row
of chipped crocodile teeth.
We laugh on cue
not really sure what is so funny.
Cut the crap, says Coach
and the mice and roaches in this decayed
corner of the school take cover.
What about you, Camel Jockey?
I am Camel Jockey.
I was still three pounds over
before practice and somewhere
in the frozen air above our town
21 pounds of me has been stolen
since season began in November.
I am sick of cutting weight
but I’m so close now
and tomorrow we can take Eastside.
You got some A’s, didn’t you? Coach asks.
True, I got some A’s but
my parents own a bar where
I cook Italian sausage sandwiches
and butter garlic bread in front
of a 700 degree oven after practice
still dressed in sweat clothes
trying to drain off those last few ounces
wishing I could just lick the grease
off the prep counter or sneak a few
slices of Genoa salami and not be overweight
but I’m ranked in the district
at 112 pounds and the team
needs the points
if we’re gonna take leagues in two weeks.
You’re smart enough, Camel, and you could be
tough enough with a few more ass whuppins,

says Coach, so whattaya think?
I can talk to the coach at State,
see what he thinks a you tomorrow.

I look over at LaDuke who
looks at Brophy who looks
at Washington the heavyweight . . .
sweat drips down my nose
and my mouth is coated in cotton
and if I’m lucky, really lucky
I only have another pound to lose
and maybe if we stop all this talk
about college and start running again
I can eat half an orange
and drink a cup of milk after work tonight
before drifting off to sleep.

   

_____

   

   
by Kimberly Dark

   
Contact

   
        In pairs, they fall together again and again,
        shoulder to shoulder, neck to neck,
        heads close, they take on each others weight
        with pleasure.

        It looks like pleasure, an intimate pleasure,
        an embrace—until the feet dig in and
        the choreographed tussle begins.
        It looks like pleasure
        and so it must be
        for what would hold them,
        hour after hour,
        in these forms of embrace,
        bodily pressure, contact—
        if not pleasure.

        The environment is daunting, after all.
        The grunts and shuffling feet,
        yells of coaches create a noise
        that even in its power
        cannot rise above the hot stench
        of bodies, struggling.
        A steamy-loud-funk escapes the room
        and they are all writhing in the midst of it—
        creating a steamy hot punk funk
        109-summer-degrees outside
        and inside, the steam rises from their bodies.

        This is how young men must touch each other—
        hug, hold one another’s bodies—
        without provoking disdain
        without fear of abuse
        without loss, loss, loss,
        loss of everything

        Summer wrestling camp,
        the south gym at Fresno State University
        is a giant room with hardwood floors
        big blue mats hauled in two days ago
        to cushion prancing feet and falls,
        to guard the flesh and bones of boy’s tumbles,
        shield knees from harm.

        The door between the sunny day
        and the stench of wrestlers
        seems an easily passable
        portal between worlds.
        The gym is dark and slightly cooler
        than the noon-time brightness
        and yet within each wrestler,
        a sun glows
        drenching his clothes and skin
        with sweat.

        At the call of the coaches they
        “BREAK! Give me 5 sit-ups!”
        Then they’re back at it again
        falling together, shoulder to shoulder,
        enacting the forms of contact
        common to the sport—
        the rituals of contact within
        the tightly controlled container
        of combat and propriety.
        Intimate propriety; their suns shine
        making the paint want to peel
        in the stench.
        They fall together again and again
        constrained by the form as they
        make vital, human contact.

   

   

_____

   

   
by John D. Berry

    martial artist, Berkeley CA

   
Contest
   
   
Stillness,
Before beginning,
Focus narrows,
To target,
Sounds diminish,
Without silence.
   
The movie runs,
In your head,
Which moves,
Counter moves,
How victory,
Will come.
   
Move,
No thought,
No mind,
Breathe,
The referee’s signal,
It begins.

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        The Drop, that wrestles in the Sea—
        Forgets her own locality—
        As I—toward Thee—

        She knows herself an incense small—
        Yet small—she sighs—if All—is All—
        How larger—be?

        The Ocean—smiles—at her Conceit—
        But she, forgetting Amphitrite—
        Pleads—“Me”?

   

                284

   

_____

   

Granby Roll from TheMat.com's Coaches Corner

   

_____

   

   
by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)

   
Enceladus

   
        In the Black Country, from a little window,
        Before I slept, across the haggard wastes
        Of dust and ashes, I saw Titanic shafts
        Like shadowy columns of wan-hope arise
        To waste, on the blear sky, their slow sad wreaths
        Of smoke, their infinitely sad slow prayers.
        Then, as night deepened, the blast-furnaces,
        Red smears upon the sulphurous blackness, turned
        All that sad region to a City of Dis,
        Where naked, sweating giants all night long
        Bowed their strong necks, melted flesh, blood and bone,
        To brim the dry ducts of the gods of gloom
        With terrible rivers, branches of living gold.

        O, like some tragic gesture of great souls
        In agony, those awful columns towered
        Against the clouds, that city of ash and slag
        Assumed the grandeur of some direr Thebes
        Arising to the death-chant of those gods,
        A dreadful Order climbing from the dark
        Of Chaos and Corruption, threatening to take
        Heaven with its vast slow storm.
                                                              I slept, and dreamed.
        And like the slow beats of some Titan heart
        Buried beneath immeasurable woes,
        The forging-hammers thudded through the dream:

        Huge on a fallen tree,
        Lost in the darkness of primeval woods,
        Enceladus, earth-born Enceladus,
        The naked giant, brooded all alone.
        Born of the lower earth, he knew not how,
        Born of the mire and clay, he knew not when,
        Brought forth in darkness, and he knew not why!

        Thus, like a wind, went by a thousand years.

        Anhungered, yet no comrade of the wolf,
        And cold, but with no power upon the sun,
        A master of this world that mastered him!

        Thus, like a cloud, went by a thousand years.

        Who chained this other giant in his heart
        That heaved and burned like Etna?  Heavily
        He bent his brows and wondered and was dumb.

        And, like one wave, a thousand years went by.

        He raised his matted head and scanned the stars.
        He stood erect!  He lifted his uncouth arms!
        With inarticulate sounds his uncouth lips
        Wrestled and strove—I am full-fed, and yet
        I hunger!
        Who set this fiercer famine in my maw?

        Can I eat moons, gorge on the Milky Way,
        Swill sunsets down, or sup the wash of the dawn
        Out of the rolling swine-troughs of the sea?
        Can I drink oceans, lie beneath the mountains,
        And nuzzle their heavy boulders like a cub
        Sucking the dark teats of the tigress?  Who,
        Who set this deeper hunger in my heart?

        And the dark forest echoed—Who?  Ah, who?

        “I hunger!”
        And the night-wind answered him,
        “Hunt, then, for food.”

        “I hunger!”
        And the sleek gorged lioness
        Drew nigh him, dripping freshly from the kill,
        Redder her lolling tongue, whiter her fangs,
        And gazed with ignorant eyes of golden flame.

        “I hunger!”
        Like a breaking sea his cry
        Swept through the night.  Against his swarthy knees
        She rubbed the red wet velvet of her ears
        With mellow thunders of unweeting bliss,
        Purring—Ah, seek, and you shall find.
        Ah, seek, and you shall slaughter, gorge, ah seek,
        Seek, seek, you shall feed full, ah seek, ah seek.

        Enceladus, earth-born Enceladus,
        Bewildered like a desert-pilgrim, saw
        A rosy City, opening in the clouds,
        The hunger-born mirage of his own heart,
        Far, far above the world, a home of gods,
        Where One, a goddess, veiled in the sleek waves
        Of her deep hair, yet glimmering golden through,
        Lifted, with radiant arms, ambrosial food
        For hunger such as this!  Up the dark hills,
        He rushed, a thunder-cloud,
        Urged by the famine of his heart.  He stood
        High on the topmost crags, he hailed the gods
        In thunder, and the clouds re-echoed it!

        He hailed the gods!
        And like a sea of thunder round their thrones
        Washing, a midnight sea, his earth-born voice
        Besieged the halls of heaven!  He hailed the gods!
        They laughed, he heard them laugh!
        With echo and re-echo, far and wide,
        A golden sea of mockery, they laughed!

        Enceladus, earth-born Enceladus,
        Laid hold upon the rosy Gates of Heaven,
        And shook them with gigantic sooty hands,
        Asking he knew not what, but not for alms;
        And the Gates, opened as in jest;
        And, like a sooty jest, he stumbled in.

        Round him the gods, the young and scornful gods,
        Clustered and laughed to mark the ravaged face,
        The brutal brows, the deep and dog-like eyes,
        The blunt black nails, and back with burdens bowed.
        And, when they laughed, he snarled with uncouth lips
        And made them laugh again.
                                                           “Whence comest thou?”
        He could not speak!
        How should he speak whose heart within him heaved
        And burned like Etna?  Through his mouth there came
        A sound of ice-bergs in a frozen sea
        Of tears, a sullen region of black ice
        Rending and breaking, very far away.
        They laughed!
        He stared at them, bewildered, and they laughed
        Again, “Whence comest thou?”

        He could not speak!
        But through his mouth a moan of midnight woods,
        Where wild beasts lay in wait to slaughter and gorge,
        A moan of forest-caverns where the wolf
        Brought forth her litter, a moan of the wild earth
        In travail with strange shapes of mire and clay,
        Creatures of clay, clay images of the gods,
        That hungered like the gods, the most high gods,
        But found no food, and perished like the beasts.

        And the gods laughed,—
        Art thou, then, such a god?  And, like a leaf
        Unfolding in dark woods, in his deep brain
        A sudden memory woke; and like an ape
        He nodded, and all heaven with laughter rocked,
        While Artemis cried out with scornful lips,—
        Perchance He is the Maker of you all!

        Then, piteously outstretching calloused hands,
        He sank upon his knees, his huge gnarled knees,
        And echoed, falteringly, with slow harsh tongue,—
        Perchance, perchance, the Maker of you all.

        They wept with laughter!  And Aphrodite, she,
        With keener mockery than white Artemis
        Who smiled aloof, drew nigh him unabashed
        In all her blinding beauty.  Carelessly,
        As o’er the brute brows of a stallèd ox
        Across that sooty muzzle and brawny breast,
        Contemptuously, she swept her golden hair
        In one deep wave, a many-millioned scourge
        Intolerable and beautiful as fire;
        Then turned and left him, reeling, gasping, dumb,
        While heaven re-echoed and re-echoed, See,
        Perchance, perchance, the Maker of us all!

        Enceladus, earth-born Enceladus,
        Rose to his feet, and with one terrible cry
        “I hunger,” rushed upon the scornful gods
        And strove to seize and hold them with his hands,
        And still the laughter deepened as they rolled
        Their clouds around them, baffling him.  But once,
        Once with a shout, in his gigantic arms
        He crushed a slippery splendour on his breast
        And felt on his harsh skin the cool smooth peaks
        Of Aphrodite’s bosom.  One black hand
        Slid down the naked snow of her long side
        And bruised it where he held her.  Then, like snow
        Vanishing in a furnace, out of his arms
        The splendour suddenly melted, and a roll
        Of thunder split the dream, and headlong down
        He fell, from heaven to earth; while, overhead
        The young and scornful gods—he heard them laugh!—
        Toppled the crags down after him.  He lay
        Supine.  They plucked up Etna by the roots
        And buried him beneath it.  His broad breast
        Heaved, like that other giant in his heart,
        And through the crater burst his fiery breath,
        But could not burst his bonds.  And so he lay
        Breathing in agony thrice a thousand years.

        Then came a Voice, he knew not whence, “Arise,
        Enceladus!”  And from his heart a crag
        Fell, and one arm was free, and one thought free,
        And suddenly he awoke, and stood upright,
        Shaking the mountains from him like a dream;
        And the tremendous light and awful truth
        Smote, like the dawn, upon his blinded eyes,
        That out of his first wonder at the world,
        Out of his own heart’s deep humility,
        And simple worship, he had fashioned gods
        Of cloud, and heaven out of a hollow shell.
        And groping now no more in the empty space
        Outward, but inward in his own deep heart,
        He suddenly felt the secret gates of heaven
        Open, and from the infinite heavens of hope
        Inward, a voice, from the innermost courts of Love,
        Rang—Thou shall have none other gods but Me.

        Enceladus, the foul Enceladus,
        When the clear light out of that inward heaven
        Whose gates are only inward in the soul,
        Showed him that one true Kingdom, said,
                                                                     “I will stretch
        My hands out once again.  And, as the God
        That made me is the Heart within my heart,
        So shall my heart be to this dust and earth
        A god and a creator.  I will strive
        With mountains, fires and seas, wrestle and strive,
        Fashion and make, and that which I have made
        In anguish I shall love as God loves me.”

        In the Black Country, from a little window,
        Waking at dawn, I saw those giant Shafts
        —O great dark word out of our elder speech,
        Long since the poor man’s kingly heritage—
        The Shapings, the dim Sceptres of Creation,
        The Shafts like columns of wan-hope arise
        To waste, on the blear sky, their slow sad wreaths
        Of smoke, their infinitely sad slow prayers.
        Then, as the dawn crimsoned, the sordid clouds,
        The puddling furnaces, the mounds of slag,
        The cinders, and the sand-beds and the rows
        Of wretched roofs, assumed a majesty
        Beyond all majesties of earth or air;
        Beauty beyond all beauty, as of a child
        In rags, upraised thro’ the still gold of heaven,
        With wasted arms and hungering eyes, to bring
        The armoured seraphim down upon their knees
        And teach eternal God humility;
        The solemn beauty of the unfulfilled
        Moving towards fulfilment on a height
        Beyond all heights; the dreadful beauty of hope;
        The naked wrestler struggling from the rock
        Under the sculptor’s chisel; the rough mass
        Of clay more glorious for the poor blind face
        And bosom that half emerge into the light,
        More glorious and august, even in defeat,
        Than that too cold dominion God foreswore
        To bear this passionate universal load,
        This Calvary of Creation, with mankind.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Andy Jones

   
First Dance

   
        Your new wife and her relatives,
        now your in-laws,
        had never seen you dance before the big day,
        and wondered how,
        with all this bulky, residual muscle,
        you knew how to move so well, so expressively.
        As your coach and mentor,
        I had been invited to help welcome you to adulthood,
        And I knew.

        First you and your partner start in a neutral position,
        facing each other,
        sizing each other up,
        neither one yet in control.
        Soon, if it’s a slow song,
        you may take a head and shoulder lead,
        so that you start ear to ear,
        and her head may drop to your chest,
        but ironically she has the advantage here,
        for this is her arena,
        so she is in command.

        When the music changes,
        when the pace quickens,
        and adrenaline can be called upon,
        there is a reversal.
        You feel uplifted, and centered, and calm.
        Now the hips come into play,
        and your hips are well-trained.
        you start hips down so as to create an angle,
        and then spin her so as to drive strong across her hips,
        and before she knows it,
        you have impressed her with a hip lock,
        followed by a hip heist and hip pop.
        Such dexterity and vigor!

        When the time is right,
        you pull her near,
        inside to your arms like a lock
        so that all of her is adjacent to all of you,
        and your staggered stance realigns her rhythm to yours.
        Now you dictate the action,
        and she circles to your trail leg.
        You are feeling it now, sensing satisfaction and victory.
        You step and slide,
        and then one step back, and then circle.
        Your every move had been practiced, horizontally,
        as I stood over you with a whistle.

        Your new bride, she loves it!
        She is walking her fingers forward!
        You are a flanker!
        You are a double top stretcher!
        Inspired, she kicks up her heel to her butt
        and eliminates all the daylight between the two of you.
        She hopes to keep up with your energy,
        sees you as so graceful and authoritative here,
        just as you always hoped to be on the mat.
        And you realize, as you try to keep your hip on top,
        that this moment here,
        a moment when you are so strong, flexible, and smooth,
        without a referee ever to stop you,
        this might be your absolute last moment of control.

   

   

_____

   

Two Children Wrestling, Roman Marble Sculpture, 1st Century AD, Barakat Gallery

   

_____

   

   
a traditional ballad

   
A Gest of Robyn Hode

The Second Fytte (verses 134-143)

   
        He bare a launsgay in his honde,
            And a man ledde his male,
        And reden with a lyght songe
            Unto Bernysdale.

        But as he went at a brydge ther was a wrastelyng,
            And there taryed was he,
        And there was all the best yemen
            Of all the west countree.

        A full fayre game there was up set,
            A whyte bulle up i-pyght,
        A grete courser, with sadle and brydil,
            With golde burnyssht full bryght.

        A payre of gloves, a rede golde rynge,
            A pype of wyne, in fay;
        What man that bereth hym best i-wys
            The pryce shall bere away.

        There was a yoman in that place,
            And best worthy was he,
        And for he was ferre and frembde bested,
            Slayne he shulde have be.

        The knight had ruthe of this yoman,
            In placë where that he stode;
        He sayde that yoman shulde have no harme,
            For love of Robyn Hode.

        The knyght presed in to the place,
            An hundreth folowed hym free,
        With bowes bent and arowes sharpe,
            For to shende that companye.

        They shulderd all and made hym rome,
            To wete what he wolde say;
        He took the yeman bi the hande,
            And gave hym al the play.

        He gave hym five marke for his wyne,
            There it lay on the molde,
        And bad it shulde be set a broche,
            Drynkë who so wolde.

        Thus longe taried this gentyll knyght,
            Tyll that play was done;
        So long abode Robyn fastinge
            Thre hourës after the none.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Jean Starr Untermeyer (1886-1970)

   
Growing Pains

   
        From the bloodless battle,
        From wrestling with memories—those athletic ghosts,
        From an aching reach for Beauty,
        Speech has burst forth.
        Not for Art’s sake,
        But to rid me of an ancient sorrow—
        Not mine alone and yet so wholly mine.
        I have left no songs for an idle lute,
        No pretty tunes of coddled ills,
        But the bare chart of my growing pains.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        How dare the robins sing,
             When men and women hear
        Who since they went to their account
              Have settled with the year!—
        Paid all that life had earned
              In one consummate bill,
        And now, what life or death can do
              Is immaterial.
        Insulting is the sun
              To him whose mortal light
        Beguiled of immortality
              Bequeaths him to the night.
        Extinct be every hum
              In deference to him
        Whose garden wrestles with the dew,
              At daybreak overcome!

   

                1724

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        I think the Hemlock likes to stand
        Upon a Marge of Snow—
        It suits his own Austerity—
        And satisfies an awe

        That men, must slake in Wilderness—
        And in the Desert—cloy—
        An instinct for the Hoar, the Bald—
        Lapland’s—necessity—

        The Hemlock’s nature thrives—on cold—
        The Gnash of Northern winds
        Is sweetest nutriment—to him—
        His best Norwegian Wines—

        To satin Races—he is nought—
        But Children on the Don,
        Beneath his Tabernacles, play,
        And Dnieper Wrestlers, run.

   

                525

   

_____

   

   
from a hospital bed

   
to Robert Thomas Hamilton Bruce

   
by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

   
Invictus

   
        Out of the night that covers me,
              Black as the pit from pole to pole,
        I thank whatever gods may be
              For my unconquerable soul.

        In the fell clutch of circumstance
              I have not winced nor cried aloud.
        Under the bludgeonings of chance
              My head is bloody, but unbowed.

        Beyond this place of wrath and tears
              Looms but the horror of the shade,
        And yet the menace of the years
              Finds and shall find me unafraid.

        It matters not how strait the gate,
              How charged with punishments the scroll,
        I am the master of my fate:
              I am the captain of my soul.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Rus Bowden

        a Dracut High School and Bridgewater State College wrestling dad

   
Jacob the Leg Puller

   
        It was late.  With the tribute to his brother
        being herded on its way,
        Jacob, exhausted, decided to stay at camp.

        Unable to sleep, a bit later he rose, took his
        two wives, two maids, eleven children
        and all that he owned, and escorted them

        across the shallow of the rivulet that rises
        and flows:  the Jaboc River.
        With family and belongings well on ahead,

        Jacob returned to camp to be by himself.
        This man appeared and they
        wrestled all night until the twilight of morning.

        When the man realized that he could not win,
        he wrenched Jacob’s hip
        at the socket, popping it out of joint.

        The match continued.
        The man said:  “Let go, morning is here.”
        Jacob replied:  “I won’t let you go unless

        “you give me the award.”
        His opponent said:  “What is your name?”
        “Jacob,” came the reply.  The man spoke:

        “Your name is no longer Jacob the leg puller,
        but Israel the god wrestler.
        You have wrestled divinity as well as humanity

        “and you are the winner.”
        Jacob asked him, “What is your name?”
        He said, “Never mind my name,” and bowed and left.

        Jacob christened that place “Peni-el” saying,
        “Face the divine and live.”
        He limped out of Penuel.  The sun was rising.

   

   

_____

   

by John S. Taylor in 1841

   
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

   
        Now, by that touch, Mysterious man! I know
        Thy nature’s more than human!—Let thee go!
        Not till thou bless me.  If, through all the night,
        My daring, struggling limbs increas’d in might;
        If thou thy strength attempered e’en to mine,
        If thus resisting I o’ermastered thine;
        Then wilt thou too, my daring speech approve,
        For all thy wrestling was but tender love!
        My name is Jacob—thou hast made me bold,
        Thine arms that have repell’d me, must enfold!
        Thou shalt, Oh Wondrous Stranger! e’er we part—
        Stamp thine eternal blessing on my heart!

        Thy name no more is Jacob!  Thou hast seen
        By faith’s keen vision, what thy trials mean!
        Thy name is Israel!  Knighted Prince of God!
        For thou with him the wrestling ring hast trod!
        Nay–cease!  Ask not for my peculiar name,
        Enough to know ’twill put thy foes to shame:
        Take this white stone—’tis deeply graven there,
        With thine, a token of prevailing prayer!
        Forth to thy work—thy darkest dangers brave,
        My name goes with thee, and ’tis strong to save!

   
Previously published in Jacob wrestling with the angel [sermons]

   

   

_____

   

Bibi Saint-Pol's 2007 photo of Euphronios' Heracles wrestling Antaeus, 515-510 BC

   

_____

   

by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

   
The Lady of the Lake

Canto Fifth (The Combat)

   
        XXIII.

        Now, clear the ring! for, hand to hand,
        The manly wrestlers take their stand.
        Two o’er the rest superior rose,
        And proud demanded mightier foes,—
        Nor called in vain, for Douglas came.—
        For life is Hugh of Larbert lame;
        Scarce better John of Alloa’s fare,
        Whom senseless home his comrades bare.
        Prize of the wrestling match, the King
        To Douglas gave a golden ring,
        While coldly glanced his eye of blue,
        As frozen drop of wintry dew.
        Douglas would speak, but in his breast
        His struggling soul his words suppressed;
        Indignant then he turned him where
        Their arms the brawny yeomen bare,
        To hurl the massive bar in air.
        When each his utmost strength had shown,
        The Douglas rent an earth-fast stone
        From its deep bed, then heaved it high,
        And sent the fragment through the sky
        A rood beyond the farthest mark;
        And still in Stirling’s royal park,
        The gray-haired sires, who know the past,
        To strangers point the Douglas cast,
        And moralize on the decay
        Of Scottish strength in modern day.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Steve Parker

    martial artist and sometime wrestler

   
Lights fall from the Old Man of the Sea

   
        we hold until I am exhausted

        he is a trickling thing of sand
        a scintilla that drains back into the beach

        a shock of trees
        released by strong winds
        he is a fish, a slither
        an eel that flits away
        then has me pinned

        he is all around me
        he clenches, shoves my face
        towards his
        buried down there
        beneath our grinding feet
        iron-eyed our faces

        stare it out underground
        through lock and tremor
        we are two seismic prayers
        to a god divided

        he is a lion he is my mother he is the flicker of songbirds falling
        as black snow in early evening my fingers are wings are poems
        within his smoke we fold back to embrace
        count five sudden things of magic
        stamp and hold tight

        lion mother phantom
        my lost brother
        whistles hard in the waves

        old father in the fallen leaves offshore

        we walk into the sea
        each carrying the other
        light as children who cannot return
        rise only as the tide
        sends up her drowned lanterns

        each with his heart of red sand
        catching, holding

        our breath beyond reach

   

   

_____

   

   
by G.C. Smith

   
Lightweight

   
        At two hundred and twenty today
        this unHogan Hulk knew another time
        way back in the way back when
        he wrestled at a paltry ninety-eight

        Tough monkey that he was at fourteen
        he practiced hard each and every day
        and once a week eliminated all comers
        except that damn hardened skinny senior

        He never made it to interschool competition
        the skinny bastard senior saw to that
        but, still, he got a lot from trying
        before he switched off to other things

        Looking back some fifty seven years
        it’s nigh impossible to recollect
        that wiry freckled fourteen year old
        taking on all comers at a lightweight ninety-eight

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        A little East of Jordan,
        Evangelists record,
        A Gymnast and an Angel
        Did wrestle long and hard—

        Till morning touching mountain—
        And Jacob, waxing strong,
        The Angel begged permission
        To Breakfast—to return—

        Not so, said cunning Jacob!
        “I will not let thee go
        Except thou bless me”—Stranger!
        The which acceded to—

        Light swung the silver fleeces
        “Peniel” Hills beyond,
        And the bewildered Gymnast
        Found he had worsted God!

   

                59

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Longing is like the Seed
        That wrestles in the Ground,
        Believing if it intercede
        It shall at length be found.

        The Hour, and the Clime—
        Each Circumstance unknown,
        What Constancy must be achieved
        Before it see the Sun!

   

                1255

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Musicians wrestle everywhere—
        All day—among the crowded air
              I hear the silver strife—
        And—walking—long before the morn—
        Such transport breaks upon the town
              I think it that “New Life”!

        If is not Bird—it has no nest—
        Nor “Band”—in brass and scarlet—drest—
              Nor Tamborin—nor Man—
        It is not Hymn from pulpit read—
        The “Morning Stars” the Treble led
              On Time’s first Afternoon!

        Some—say—it is “the Spheres”—at play!
        Some say that bright Majority
              Of vanished Dames—and Men!
        Some—think it service in the place
        Where we—with late—celestial face—
              Please God—shall Ascertain!

   

                157

   

_____

   

Rus Bowden's Goddess Athena versus Emily Dickinson, 2009

   

_____

   

   
by Steve Meador

    Defiance OH High School and Defiance College wrestler, 1969-1974

   
Muster

   
        The prairie meets the mountains at a place
        where the journey ends for the meek or weak.
        Here, cougar cunning versus buffalo strength
        versus diamondback lightning, and survival
        is measured in the ability to circle and strike,
        grip and twist, lunge and sprawl, stand or fall.
        It’s a lonely place where a man crawls inward,
        communes with a creature that will lead or carry
        him to the peak.  The only sounds are a chinook
        gathering strength as it blows from the fringes,
        sink it Sink it Sink It Sink IT SINK IT!
        On your toes.  Drive Drive DRIVEDRIVEDRIVE!

        and a clap of thunder that slaps against the hardpan.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Rane Arroyo

   
My Wrestler

   
        My ex-lover was a wrestler,
        liked the strain of power against
        the rumors:  two men.  There was
        a gain in him showing me the basic
        positions and me only pinning him
        once.  Maybe he let me.  The girls
        wanted him, wanted to haunt him,
        but he’d kiss me in the gym and
        no one dared to mess with him,
        the message clear:  in America,
        we have free will.  I think of
        Whitman’s brief reference to
        shirtless wrestlers, but closer
        to home, my lover would go
        to his opponent and there was
        an art to his rage.  And I felt like
        the lover in The Great White Hope:
        all sidelines, unsure how this became
        my life, that I was courageous too,
        in my own way, as I screamed,
        flip him now!  Nothing like having
        to fail in front of your boyfriend when
        the world hated us.  The future will
        not understand how important that
        he and I wrestled angels with moral
        messages because we made each
        other pure.  He’d kissed me to piss off
        people and I kissed him back because
        he was sweaty, tired, and proud of
        me for being proud of him.  He had
        never lost a match, but then he lost me.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Don Schaeffer

   
Passion Fruits

   
        While others
        built with wood
        I was making toys of cardboard tubes
        and paper clips,

        blonde shickza
        taking me to her bedroom
        and making me late
        for fourth period math class,

        and teacher thinking I went
        to the devil,
        wrestling match adventure,
        the best experiences

        were in the games.
        When the others were
        risking everything,
        close to death

        in the throws of passion,
        I didn’t dare
        go after
        the sweetest fruits.

   
Previously seen at Don Schaeffer’s Poems

   

   

_____

   

   
by Judy Swann

    an Ithaca High School wrestling mom

   
Pin

   
        I am fourteen years old
        muscles held together with skin and grit
        goaty, an ephebe, tufty hair above my lip
        for one eighth of one inch the red slow twitch
        of blood pricks my lats in a thousand points
        and I my body, its dozen senses, am my body
        upright levator scapulae
        sucking the muscles of my tongue
        and measuring you
        brachioradialis
        plectrum—
        I am hundreds of muscles.

        My eyes are muscles that see
        you shoot before your breath burns
        across my lynx ears.
        I am on you, nociceptor, know me.

        Lacrimae, lacrimae I press you back.
        I am all muscle and you
        are finished.

        Ref slaps the mat.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Judy Swann

    an Ithaca High School wrestling mom

   
Pinned

   
        Its medal is the oldest trophy
        awarded in Western athletics.
        Its communion attracts few females.
        Still it’s not like joining the Marines,
        not like the feuds of pushtunwali
        where a man seals clan triumph
        by drinking the guy’s blood.
        But it does man you up
        and despite its claim to being a team
        sport, it is not.
        The ferrety mass of your opponent
        the slug of his sweat on your throat
        that last inch
        is you losing, not your yelling coach or
        the guy next weight up, it’s all you
        when you lose.

   

   

_____

   

Dennis Riley's Eva the Pit Bull Wrestling Susie DeFord's Legs, 2008

   

_____

   

   
for Eva

   
by Susie DeFord

   
Powerboat Pit Bull

   
        Cartoon paws spread web-wide, wiggle
        a little two-step upon arrival.  A brindle-
        brown wild tigress, snakeskin sheen,
        slithering along the walls of Brooklyn

                  buildings.  Nosing my knees, knocking
                  legs out beneath or hammerhead sharking
                  shins shiny amethyst wine.  Street thugs
                  saunter and say, “Hey, nice Pit.”  Tail

        between legs, Cowardly Lion, eyes wide,
        ears perked, city construction sounds
        and strangers scary.  You powerboat-pull
        me, pavement water-skier, into Lucy’s lair.

                  She’s your best girl, block buddy, partner
        in grime.  You rocket launch upstairs amidst
                  laughing doorman Rudolpho’s stares, drag
        me tripping upwards along.  Release the beast,
                  Lucy’s out, it’s on!  Attempts to extinguish

        exuberance, but you’re gone.  You pounce,
                  pitching paws, and prancing like a boxer.
        I’m the gong, match marker, stopper, clocker.

        Lucy flings into the ring with a facebuster,

                            your muscles bulge a moonsault.  Pause

                  downward  dog, then in again Banana Split

                            and Peekout scouting your next move.  Gong

        song, Luchadoras leap into the elevator,

        endorphins emanating, meek from misbehaving,
        both sit solemnly, silly silent grins, bout breathless.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        The pretty Rain from those sweet Eaves
        Her unintending Eyes—
        Took her own Heart, including ours,
        By innocent Surprise—

        The wrestle in her simple Throat
        To hold the feeling down
        That vanquished her—defeated Feat—
        Was Fervor’s sudden Crown—

   

                1426

   

_____

   

   
by Drax Ireland

   
from the Funeral Games in Honour of Patroclus, after Homer, The Iliad, Book XXIII

   
The Prizegiving

   
        ‘Noëmon friend of Antilochos
        lead the mare away’
        as Menelaus himself took the glittering cauldron.
        Fourth, as driven, Meriones carried off the two talents’ weight of gold.
        Only the two handed jar was left.
        Achilles carried it through the Argives to Nestor,

        standing there he spoke;—

        ‘Elder, in memory of Patrokulus, a treasure for you to lay away,
        He is gone from the Argives for evermore
        this prize mine to give for the giving
        for you will not fight with fists or wrestle with limbs
        nor stand with the spear throwers
        nor race fleet footed
        as age claims her due’

        Speaking thus he placed it in Nestor’s hands
        who answered with joy

        ‘Yes youth you speak truth
        my limbs betray me as do my feet
        my friend
        my arms swing ponderous
        I wish for youth and strength within me
        as it was with Amaryngkeus and the Epeians at Bouprasion,
        the sons kings’ funeral games
        I was alone among the Epeians
        and the Pylians and the brave Aitolians
        Klytomedes, the son of Enops fell to my fists
        Angkaios of Pleuron I wrestled to the floor
        I outran the fast Iphiklos
        Polydoros and Phyleus watched my spear fly away
        only the chariot of the sons of Aktor defeated me
        crowd crossing champions chasing the prize
        the twins of Aktor, as one held the reins loose the other lashed the horses

        But this all in the past . . .

        An Elder must make way for youth
        I embrace my aging, an old hero among the young
        Enough of me, more to the contest in honour of your friend
        I take this prize with joy and a happy heart
        to be remembered, a kindness,
        I am not forgotten the honour due to me among the Achaians
        for this may the gods grant you great happiness.’

   

   

_____

   

   
for Adam

   
by David Hernandez

   
Proof

   
        Once he wrestled a bear, he said,
        in a bar off-campus with eyes
        glossy from lager, he wrestled
        a bear.  Claws and all, black fur
        and the salmon of its muscles
        leaping under the black fur.
        Wrestled and won, he said,
        the bear pinned and snorting,
        pinned and one hundred pounds
        heavier, with claws, with claws
        and teeth, the electric blue current
        of animal instinct.  I was gullible
        once, under kindergarten lights
        with glitter and paste, building
        a galaxy.  A boy stole my stars
        once, a bigger boy I wrestled
        under the night of blackboard.
        Wrestled and lost, pinned
        and weeping with my back
        to the carpet, with the fireflies
        of glitter dazzling on my skin.
        To the man who said he wrestled
        a bear, wrestled and won, I said,
        You’re full of bear shit.  But
        a scar is proof and so began
        the slow striptease of a pant leg
        rolled to his knee.  There, he said.
        And his story sparkled on his flesh.

   
Previously published in Gulf Coast, Summer/Fall 2006

   

   

_____

   

   
by Muhammad Afzal Mirza and Muhammad Amir Sheikh

   
from the biographies of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

   
Rakana vs. Prophet Muhammad

   
        While preaching in Mecca,
        Prophet Muhammad encountered
        Rakana, a famous wrestler there.
        A discussion started

        and the wrestler challenged him saying,
        “If you defeat me in a wrestling match,
        I will accept Islam.”
        They wrestled and the Prophet defeated him.

        Being a good wrestler, Rakana could not
        accept this defeat and challenged
        for another match, losing a second time.
        Rakana requested a third match.

        After this defeat, he honored
        his word and accepted Islam.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Lori Desrosiers

   
Real Wrestling

   
        Weighed in, lots drawn,
        smelling of puke and sweat,
        chewing on black mouth guards,
        the one in the yellow shorts
        vs. the one in the blue shorts.
        Referee in black socks
        and black plimsolls
        blows his whistle.
        Men fall together, splat!
        Tangle of legs, arms,
        swish of dripping sweat,
        meat against mat,
        a mass of bone and tendons,
        faces contorted in pain.
        The mat chairman amasses points
        judge verifies the fall, the touche.
        The referee calls it:
        Yellow shorts, black and blue,
        the victor by nine points.

   

   

_____

   

Greco-Roman Wrestler Steven Woods, 2004 Armed Forces Championships

   

_____

   

   
by Jeff Kass

    White Plains High and Yale University wrestler, 1980-85
    WPHS coach, 1988-90

   
Reversal

   
        You can’t execute a successful Granby Roll
        if you can’t believe you can be a wrecking ball
        and bounce

        Pop your hips toward the sky
        make your body an A-frame
        post your weight on your left hand

        Ready yourself for your quake
        hop your left foot in front
        of your right, now blow
        your house from its moorings,
        duck your head and make your
        break violent

        The Granby Roll will not work
        if you don’t have faith in your
        own momentum, you cannot quit
        halfway, your naked shoulders
        exposed to the mat’s cold mercy

        You must believe you can ravage
        your own symmetry and survive

        Now try it from standing up
        you are human, tall on two legs
        and you can dive and spin
        from upright too

        It’s hop, hop, go

        Don’t let your fear of falling
        failure, falling, failure, don’t
        let fear of falling fail you,
        failure fall you, dive,
        dive—trust your dive,
        and roll.

   
Previously published in The Ann Arbor Chronicle

   

   

_____

   

   
by Jane M’Lean (no bio)

   
Slogan

   
        Don’t prate about what is your right,
        But bare your fists and show your might;
        Life is another man to fight
        Catch as catch can.

        Don’t talk of Life as scurvy Fate,
        Who gave you favors just too late,
        Or Luck who threw you smiles for bait
        Before he ran.

        Don’t whine and wish that you were dead,
        But wrestle for your daily bread,
        And afterward let it be said
        “He was a man.”

   
found in the book It Can Be Done: Poems of Inspiration collected by Joseph Morris and St. Clair Adams

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Some we see no more, Tenements of Wonder
        Occupy to us though perhaps to them
        Simpler are the Days than the Supposition
        Leave us to presume

        That oblique Belief which we call Conjecture
        Grapples with a Theme stubborn as Sublime
        Able as the Dust to equip its feature
        Adequate as Drums
        To enlist the Tomb.

   

                1221

   

_____

   

   
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

   
The Song of Hiawatha

Chapter 5, Hiawatha’s Fasting

   
        You shall hear how Hiawatha
        Prayed and fasted in the forest,
        Not for greater skill in hunting,
        Not for greater craft in fishing,
        Not for triumphs in the battle,
        And renown among the warriors,
        But for profit of the people,
        For advantage of the nations.

        First he built a lodge for fasting,
        Built a wigwam in the forest,
        By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
        In the blithe and pleasant Spring-time,
        In the Moon of Leaves he built it,
        And, with dreams and visions many,
        Seven whole days and nights he fasted.

        On the first day of his fasting
        Through the leafy woods he wandered;
        Saw the deer start from the thicket,
        Saw the rabbit in his burrow,
        Heard the pheasant, Bena, drumming,
        Heard the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
        Rattling in his hoard of acorns,
        Saw the pigeon, the Omeme,
        Building nests among the pinetrees,
        And in flocks the wild-goose, Wawa,
        Flying to the fen-lands northward,
        Whirring, wailing far above him.
        “Master of Life!” he cried, desponding,
        “Must our lives depend on these things?”

        On the next day of his fasting
        By the river’s brink he wandered,
        Through the Muskoday, the meadow,
        Saw the wild rice, Mahnomonee,
        Saw the blueberry, Meenahga,
        And the strawberry, Odahmin,
        And the gooseberry, Shahbomin,
        And the grape-vine, the Bemahgut,
        Trailing o’er the alder-branches,
        Filling all the air with fragrance!
        “Master of Life!” he cried, desponding,
        “Must our lives depend on these things?”

        On the third day of his fasting
        By the lake he sat and pondered,
        By the still, transparent water;
        Saw the sturgeon, Nahma, leaping,
        Scattering drops like beads of wampum,
        Saw the yellow perch, the Sahwa,
        Like a sunbeam in the water,
        Saw the pike, the Maskenozha,
        And the herring, Okahahwis,
        And the Shawgashee, the crawfish!
        “Master of Life!” he cried, desponding,
        “Must our lives depend on these things?”

        On the fourth day of his fasting
        In his lodge he lay exhausted;
        From his couch of leaves and branches
        Gazing with half-open eyelids,
        Full of shadowy dreams and visions,
        On the dizzy, swimming landscape,
        On the gleaming of the water,
        On the splendor of the sunset.

        And he saw a youth approaching,
        Dressed in garments green and yellow,
        Coming through the purple twilight,
        Through the splendor of the sunset;
        Plumes of green bent o’er his forehead,
        And his hair was soft and golden.

        Standing at the open doorway,
        Long he looked at Hiawatha,
        Looked with pity and compassion
        On his wasted form and features,
        And, in accents like the sighing
        Of the South-Wind in the tree-tops,
        Said he, “O my Hiawatha!
        All your prayers are heard in heaven,
        For you pray not like the others;
        Not for greater skill in hunting,
        Not for greater craft in fishing,
        Not for triumph in the battle,
        Nor renown among the warriors,
        But for profit of the people,
        For advantage of the nations.

        “From the Master of Life descending,
        I, the friend of man, Mondamin,
        Come to warn you and instruct you,
        How by struggle and by labor
        You shall gain what you have prayed for.
        Rise up from your bed of branches,
        Rise, O youth, and wrestle with me!”

        Faint with famine, Hiawatha
        Started from his bed of branches,
        From the twilight of his wigwam
        Forth into the flush of sunset
        Came, and wrestled with Mondamin;
        At his touch he felt new courage
        Throbbing in his brain and bosom,
        Felt new life and hope and vigor
        Run through every nerve and fibre.

        So they wrestled there together
        In the glory of the sunset,
        And the more they strove and struggled,
        Stronger still grew Hiawatha;
        Till the darkness fell around them,
        And the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
        From her nest among the pine-trees,
        Gave a cry of lamentation,
        Gave a scream of pain and famine.

        “‘T is enough!” then said Mondamin,
        Smiling upon Hiawatha,
        “But tomorrow, when the sun sets,
        I will come again to try you.”
        And he vanished, and was seen not;
        Whether sinking as the rain sinks,
        Whether rising as the mists rise,
        Hiawatha saw not, knew not,
        Only saw that he had vanished,
        Leaving him alone and fainting,
        With the misty lake below him,
        And the reeling stars above him.

        On the morrow and the next day,
        When the sun through heaven descending,
        Like a red and burning cinder
        From the hearth of the Great Spirit,
        Fell into the western waters,
        Came Mondamin for the trial,
        For the strife with Hiawatha;
        Came as silent as the dew comes,
        From the empty air appearing,
        Into empty air returning,
        Taking shape when earth it touches,
        But invisible to all men
        In its coming and its going.

        Thrice they wrestled there together
        In the glory of the sunset,
        Till the darkness fell around them,
        Till the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
        From her nest among the pine-trees,
        Uttered her loud cry of famine,
        And Mondamin paused to listen.

        Tall and beautiful he stood there,
        In his garments green and yellow;
        To and fro his plumes above him,
        Waved and nodded with his breathing,
        And the sweat of the encounter
        Stood like drops of dew upon him.

        And he cried, “O Hiawatha!
        Bravely have you wrestled with me,
        Thrice have wrestled stoutly with me,
        And the Master of Life, who sees us,
        He will give to you the triumph!”

        Then he smiled, and said:  “To-morrow
        Is the last day of your conflict,
        Is the last day of your fasting.
        You will conquer and o’ercome me;
        Make a bed for me to lie in,
        Where the rain may fall upon me,
        Where the sun may come and warm me;
        Strip these garments, green and yellow,
        Strip this nodding plumage from me,
        Lay me in the earth, and make it
        Soft and loose and light above me.

        “Let no hand disturb my slumber,
        Let no weed nor worm molest me,
        Let not Kahgahgee, the raven,
        Come to haunt me and molest me,
        Only come yourself to watch me,
        Till I wake, and start, and quicken,
        Till I leap into the sunshine”

        And thus saying, he departed;
        Peacefully slept Hiawatha,
        But he heard the Wawonaissa,
        Heard the whippoorwill complaining,
        Perched upon his lonely wigwam;
        Heard the rushing Sebowisha,
        Heard the rivulet rippling near him,
        Talking to the darksome forest;
        Heard the sighing of the branches,
        As they lifted and subsided
        At the passing of the night-wind,
        Heard them, as one hears in slumber
        Far-off murmurs, dreamy whispers:
        Peacefully slept Hiawatha.

        On the morrow came Nokomis,
        On the seventh day of his fasting,
        Came with food for Hiawatha,
        Came imploring and bewailing,
        Lest his hunger should o’ercome him,
        Lest his fasting should be fatal.

        But he tasted not, and touched not,
        Only said to her, “Nokomis,
        Wait until the sun is setting,
        Till the darkness falls around us,
        Till the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
        Crying from the desolate marshes,
        Tells us that the day is ended.”

        Homeward weeping went Nokomis,
        Sorrowing for her Hiawatha,
        Fearing lest his strength should fail him,
        Lest his fasting should be fatal.
        He meanwhile sat weary waiting
        For the coming of Mondamin,
        Till the shadows, pointing eastward,
        Lengthened over field and forest,
        Till the sun dropped from the heaven,
        Floating on the waters westward,
        As a red leaf in the Autumn
        Falls and floats upon the water,
        Falls and sinks into its bosom.

        And behold! the young Mondamin,
        With his soft and shining tresses,
        With his garments green and yellow,
        With his long and glossy plumage,
        Stood and beckoned at the doorway.
        And as one in slumber walking,
        Pale and haggard, but undaunted,
        From the wigwam Hiawatha
        Came and wrestled with Mondamin.

        Round about him spun the landscape,
        Sky and forest reeled together,
        And his strong heart leaped within him,
        As the sturgeon leaps and struggles
        In a net to break its meshes.
        Like a ring of fire around him
        Blazed and flared the red horizon,
        And a hundred suns seemed looking
        At the combat of the wrestlers.

        Suddenly upon the greensward
        All alone stood Hiawatha,
        Panting with his wild exertion,
        Palpitating with the struggle;
        And before him breathless, lifeless,
        Lay the youth, with hair dishevelled,
        Plumage torn, and garments tattered,
        Dead he lay there in the sunset.

        And victorious Hiawatha
        Made the grave as he commanded,
        Stripped the garments from Mondamin,
        Stripped his tattered plumage from him,
        Laid him in the earth, and made it
        Soft and loose and light above him;
        And the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
        From the melancholy moorlands,
        Gave a cry of lamentation,
        Gave a cry of pain and anguish!

        Homeward then went Hiawatha
        To the lodge of old Nokomis,
        And the seven days of his fasting
        Were accomplished and completed.
        But the place was not forgotten
        Where he wrestled with Mondamin;
        Nor forgotten nor neglected
        Was the grave where lay Mondamin,
        Sleeping in the rain and sunshine,
        Where his scattered plumes and garments
        Faded in the rain and sunshine.

        Day by day did Hiawatha
        Go to wait and watch beside it;
        Kept the dark mould soft above it,
        Kept it clean from weeds and insects,
        Drove away, with scoffs and shoutings,
        Kahgahgee, the king of ravens.

        Till at length a small green feather
        From the earth shot slowly upward,
        Then another and another,
        And before the Summer ended
        Stood the maize in all its beauty,
        With its shining robes about it,
        And its long, soft, yellow tresses;
        And in rapture Hiawatha
        Cried aloud, “It is Mondamin!
        Yes, the friend of man, Mondamin!”

        Then he called to old Nokomis
        And Iagoo, the great boaster,
        Showed them where the maize was growing,
        Told them of his wondrous vision,
        Of his wrestling and his triumph,
        Of this new gift to the nations,
        Which should be their food forever.

        And still later, when the Autumn
        Changed the long, green leaves to yellow,
        And the soft and juicy kernels
        Grew like wampum hard and yellow,
        Then the ripened ears he gathered,
        Stripped the withered husks from off them,
        As he once had stripped the wrestler,
        Gave the first Feast of Mondamin,
        And made known unto the people
        This new gift of the Great Spirit.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Still own thee—still thou art
        What surgeons call alive—
        Though slipping—slipping I perceive
        To thy reportless Grave—

        Which question shall I clutch—
        What answer wrest from thee
        Before thou dost exude away
        In the recallless sea?

   

                1633

   

_____

   

   
by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

   
Sumo

   
        Five crabs apiece, dinner after,
        then the obligatory zzzzzzzzz’s.
        Fat chance blubber

        can work itself off with this
        routine.  They squat on the dohyo
        inside “the snake’s eye”

        the Shinto priest has blessed:
        550 pounds of meat.  Tough
        disciplined blimps

        with hearts like venous seeds.
        The gods themselves may touch
        down among them tonight.

   

   

_____

   

Sumo Wrestler Throwing a Foreigner at Yokohama, Color Woodblock, 1861

   

_____

   

   
by Jeff Kass

    White Plains High and Yale University wrestler, 1980-85
    WPHS coach, 1988-90

   
Takedown

   
        When you step to the mat
        you will face an opponent
        the same weight

        You will hurt him
        or he will hurt you

        At the referee’s whistle
        you will fight from neutral

        Shuffle step, shuffle step, circle, circle, feint

        Let your legs be lampposts with panther feet

        You are a surfer on soil
        solid and liquid and solid
        again and in between teetering a clean
        green line on a carpenter’s level

        Circle, shuffle, circle, shuffle

        Knees bent, get low, lower, head up
        you are rolling shoulder grunt
        and crackling bolt from skull
        to toe, you cannot be thrown,
        but you will throw

        This is how you take a wrestler down
        you circle and feint, shuffle and feint
        grip and twist, the rhythm of your body
        a sacred hiss and you must dizzy his

        You must live for the split-second
        bulwark crack—you are one
        juggernaut knife and you will
        not be denied, you will penetrate
        low and drive

        you are a merciless thief
        and you will steal
        his ground

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        ‘Tis so appalling—it exhilarates—
        So over Horror, it half Captivates—
        The Soul stares after it, secure—
        A Sepulchre, fears frost, no more—

        To scan a Ghost, is faint—
        But grappling, conquers it—
        How easy, Torment, now—
        Suspense kept sawing so—

        The Truth, is Bald, and Cold—
        But that will hold—
        If any are not sure—
        We show them—prayer—
        But we, who know,
        Stop hoping, now—

        Looking at Death, is Dying—
        Just let go the Breath—
        And not the pillow at your Cheek
        So Slumbereth—

        Others, Can wrestle—
        Yours, is done—
        And so of Woe, bleak dreaded—come,
        It sets the Fright at liberty—
        And Terror’s free—
        Gay, Ghastly, Holiday!

   

                281

   

_____

   

   
by Edmund Waller (1606-87)

   
To Zelinda

   
        Fairest piece of well-form’d earth!
        Urge not thus your haughty birth;
        The power which you have o’er us lies
        Not in your race, but in your eyes.
        ‘None but a prince!’—Alas! that voice
        Confines you to a narrow choice.
        Should you no honey vow to taste,
        But what the master-bees have placed
        In compass of their cells, how small
        A portion to your share would fall!
        Nor all appear, among those few,
        Worthy the stock from whence they grew.
        The sap which at the root is bred
        In trees, through all the boughs is spread;
        But virtues which in parents shine,
        Make not like progress through the line.
        ‘Tis not from whom, but where, we live;
        The place does oft those graces give.
        Great Julius, on the mountains bred,
        A flock perhaps, or herd, had led.
        He that the world subdued, had been
        But the best wrestler on the green.
        ‘Tis art and knowledge which draw forth
        The hidden seeds of native worth;
        They blow those sparks, and make them rise
        Into such flames as touch the skies.
        To the old heroes hence was given
        A pedigree which reached to heaven;
        Of mortal seed they were not held,
        Which other mortals so excell’d.
        And beauty, too, in such excess
        As yours, Zelinda! claims no less.
        Smile but on me, and you shall scorn,
        Henceforth, to be of princes born.
        I can describe, the shady grove
        Where your loved mother slept with Jove;
        And yet excuse the faultless dame,
        Caught with her spouse’s shape and name.
        Thy matchless form will credit bring
        To all the wonders I shall sing.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        ‘Twas Crisis—All the length had passed—
        That dull—benumbing time
        There is in Fever or Event—
        And now the Chance had come—

        The instant holding in its claw
        The privilege to live
        Or warrant to report the Soul
        The other side the Grave.

        The Muscles grappled as with leads
        That would not let the Will—
        The Spirit shook the Adamant—
        But could not make it feel.

        The Second poised—debated—shot—
        Another had begun—
        And simultaneously, a Soul
        Escaped the House unseen—

   

                948

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Two swimmers wrestled on the spar—
        Until the morning sun—
        When One—turned smiling to the land—
        Oh God! the Other One!

        The stray ships—passing—
        Spied a face—
        Upon the waters borne—
        With eyes in death—still begging raised—
        And hands—beseeching—thrown!

   

                201

   

_____

   

by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

   
Wrestling Jacob

   
        Come, O, thou Traveller unknown,
             Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
        My company before is gone,
             And I am left alone with thee:
        With thee all night I mean to stay,
        And wrestle till the break of day.

        I need not tell thee who I am,
             My sin and misery declare:
        Thyself hast call’d me by my name;
             Look on thy hands and read it there;
        But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
        Tell me thy name, and tell me now.

        In vain thou strugglest to get free,
             I never will unloose my hold:
        Art thou the Man that died for me?
             The secret of thy love unfold:
        Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
        Till I thy name, thy nature know.

        Wilt thou not yet to me reveal
             thy new, unutterable name?
        Tell me, I still beseech thee, tell;
             To know it now resolv’d I am:
        Wrestling I will not let thee go,
        Till I thy name, thy nature know.

        What though my shrinking flesh complain,
             And murmur to contend so long?
        I rise superior to my pain;
             When I am weak then am I strong:
        And when my all of strength shall fail,
        I shall with the God-man prevail.

        Yield to me now for I am weak;
             But confident in self-despair!
        Speak to my heart, in blessings speak;
             Be conquer’d by my instant prayer;
        Speak, or thou never hence shalt move,
        And tell me if thy name be Love.

        ‘Tis Love! ’tis Love!  Thou died’st for me;
             I hear thy whisper in my heart;
        The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
             Pure, universal Love thou art:
        To me, to all, thy bowels move,
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

        My prayer hath power with God; the grace
             Unspeakable I now receive;
        Through faith I see thee face to face;
             I see thee face to face, and live:
        In vain I have not wept and strove;
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

        I know thee, Saviour, who thou art,
             Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend,
        Nor wilt thou with the night depart,
             But stay and love me to the end:
        Thy mercies never shall remove;
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

        The Sun of Righteousness on me
             Hath rose, with healing in his wings;
        Wither’d my nature’s strength; from thee
             My soul its life and succour brings;
        My help is all laid up above;
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

        Contented now upon my thigh
             I halt till life’s short journey end;
        All helplessness, all weakness, I
             On thee alone for strength depend;
        Nor have I power from thee to move;
        thy nature and thy name is Love.

        Lame as I am, I take the prey;
             Hell, earth, and sin with ease o’ercome;
        I leap for joy, pursue my way,
             And, as a bounding hart fly home,
        Through all eternity to prove
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Michael D. Snediker

   
Wrestling Song

   
        Our spandex clung like denouement
        to limbs as fast as lariats,
        lassoed and whipped Kabuki acts
        from bodies cool and pale as Noh.

        You wooed me into a dragon-screw,
        then suplexed hard against the mat;
        pescadoed putti bullied and booed,
        your belly locked into my back.

        The putti flocked, and tried to track
        which body clung to this or that,
        which unitarded shoulders shrugged
        trapezii from singlet-straps,

        which hamstring sprung, and elbow blocked
        and ankle pressed a signet’s wax—
        velocity spun our flanks so fast
        we blurred before we’d yet begun.

        A fan in the corner turned its head,
        and in its croon, remembered air;
        while we, in swandives flung, forgot,
        and firebirds of bruises bloomed.

   

   

_____

   

Tabitha Wilson USAF's Cole VanOhlen vs Justin Bowser, 2009 NCWA Championships

   

_____

   

   
by Jayson Iwen

   
Wrestling with Gods

from Six Trips in Two Directions

   
        I’m in a walled garden full of ornamental trees

        A man steps into the blue moonlight from a bluer shadow

        I’ve been waiting for you a long time

        It begins to snow

        Who are you running from

        I listen for my pursuer

        It’s silent but for my own breathing

        What’s in the briefcase

        I don’t know what to say

        Shall we take a look

        I hand him the briefcase, and he opens it

        Ah, my manuscript

        Thank you

        I beg your pardon, I blurt

        I’m sitting at a desk, in a motel right now, copying this dialogue word for word from the manuscript you just gave me

        And this is what I say next

        You see, I made you come here alone

        I made you hand it over

        I even made it snow

        And you

        He points at me

        Made it all possible

        Without even knowing it

        Though, of course, you had your suspicions

        And that’s why you got the job

        I even know what you’re thinking now

        He crouches down and plucks a pebble from the grass, then steps forward and holds it before my eyes

        Here’s your stone, a stone so heavy it breaks my heart at the thought of it, a stone so heavy the whole of creation rises from the depression it has made in time, a stone so heavy with sickness I cannot lift it one moment more or I shall perish

        He tosses it over the garden wall

        ‘Abdu Manaf was the strongest man among the Quraysh, and one day he met the apostle in one of the passes of Mecca alone: “Rukana,” said he, “why won’t you fear God and accept my preaching?”‘

        That simple

        But here’s the real kicker

        There’s an infinite chain of sets of god

        Each self-conscious set containing the previous set within it

        And each emergently conscious one becoming aware of the next larger set

        Becoming it

        For example, one is thinking both of us right now as our story rolls through its mind

        And as long as it holds us, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are part of its infinity

        As the heart of all layers is the utmost layer

        ‘”If I knew that what you say is true I would follow you,” he said’

        You see, common consciousness now is realizing you’re a character in other people’s dreams

        But you’re going a step further

        Listen carefully to who it is you talk to when you’re alone

        The schizophrenic may be the human to the limit

        Will we find who we are talking to one day and see that there is no longer a future, perhaps when we are all together, at the beginning and end of time

        Will we decide to begin again

        ‘The apostle then asked him if he would recognize that he spoke the truth if he threw him, and when he said Yes they began to wrestle, and when the apostle got a firm grip of him he threw him to the ground, he being unable to offer any effective resistance’

        When the whole speaks to the individual

        When I speak to You

        And now you ask

        You want me to worship you

        No, I couldn’t love someone who didn’t consider me their equal

        Besides, I contain only one more than you

        Now that I’m aware of you, what am I supposed to do

        ‘”Do it again, Muhammad,” he said, and he did it again’

        Wrestle me

        Wrestle you

        Yes

        That’s ridiculous

        Every threshold is

        ‘”This is extraordinary,” he said, “can you really throw me”‘

        What are you doing

        He kneels down, turtling himself before me, and I hear his whisper in my ear

        You must make me submit

        But you’ve just submitted

        I’m different than preceding gods that charged like mad bulls

        ‘With their elbows against their elbows, dealt they, knees against knees, head against head, and chest against chest, one another their blows’

        I’m a bit more subtle than that

        As long as I breathe you will breathe my air

        ‘That same night he sent his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, across the ford of the Jabbok’

        I’ll just walk away

        You can’t

        I turn to the wall, but it’s risen to the stars

        It glorifies the next greater god to grapple with you

        By contrasting itself with you, it reminds itself what it is

        The cold and night make a silver bouquet of my sigh

        Alright

        ‘Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak’

        The voices of my teachers return to me

        You must close the distance between yourself and your opponent so he cannot strike you

        Don’t leave gaps so he can slip an arm or leg in

        If one is flexible enough to do so, one can break holds that strength alone cannot

        Hold him closer than a lover

        ‘When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him’

        With your right hand grab his collar and with your left hand his belt

        And lift

        Creating just enough space to slide your right foot between his armpit and his thigh

        We’re enlightened through such struggle with the other

        For example, ‘jihad’ is properly defined as an all-encompassing engagement of one’s self with one’s world

        Between one and one’s limitations

        ‘Then the man said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking”‘

        What you call yourself is this conversation between ‘You’ and ‘I’

        Just between you and I

        Move so you are standing on his thighs with both feet

        Through the narrative generated by such struggle is vision most viscerally achieved

        And through the physicality of figuration most effectively transmitted

        ‘But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me”‘

        Now use both hands to hoist up on his collar, while thrusting your feet between his legs to the ground, assuming the ‘back mount’ position

        When I enter a classroom, I don’t see Protestants, Catholics, Sunnis, Shias, Hindus, Buddhists, Maronites, Druze, Agnostics, or Atheists

        I see gods sitting in the desks, filling the room with anxious radiance

        Lay your right arm over his right shoulder and under his chin, with the inside of your arm touching the tender of his neck

        ‘So he said to him, “What is your name?” and he said, “Jacob”‘

        What can I say to keep this uneasy host from tearing the world apart

        I am mortal, and have but this short day of mine with which to grapple

        Grab your left bicep with your right hand and place the back of your left hand behind his head with the palm facing you

        ‘Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed”‘

        And make a fist

        Each grapples with me in turn and only through flexibility do I survive their superhuman embrace

        Once the fist is made, do the following things to create pressure on the arteries at the sides of his neck

        Bend your left palm away from you

        Flex your biceps

        Squeeze your right forearm toward your right shoulder

        And hold it

        Though the Earth may tremble

        Take these snowflakes, each as similar and as different as the memory of your first kiss recalled at different moments in your life

        I catch one on my tongue and it melts from staggering diversity of design into the unity of water, and diffuses into my bloodstream across the membrane of my parched throat

        It is no longer the blood of a single man

        It is the blood of the universe

        When reading, you think you are merely having a conversation with a writer from elsewhere in spacetime, unpresent and undead

        We drink it endlessly

        As we drink in the sight of our lovers with our eyes

        But you and the text have become part of a greater consciousness, speaking to itself, working something out in its mind

        The sky dripping with what has ever evaporated

        With what has ever condensed from confusion to exhaustion

        What has ever left a stain behind

        As the unconscious ancients were right to assume the voice of conscience they heard was the voice of a god

        What we in the privileged present call consciousness

        You drink the blood of all life

        Of the exhalation we inhabit

        Of earth and stars and endless space

        As knowable as time alone allows

        Wrestling with a god was wrestling with a new form of consciousness that was overcoming you—a new level emerging—and if you lost, you remained in that god’s service—and if you won, you looked down at your feared, beloved, defeated god, lying, panting, on the ground, and for the first time you spoke to yourself—in shock you asked

        What now

        And the voice that answered from then on was your own

        He lies on the torn grass breathing laboriously

        So I’ve defeated you, I say

        Yes

        I was once in your place

        Now we must both move on

        Now you must do what I did then

        First close your eyes

        Now listen carefully to my voice

        Sol sinks below the Earth

        I’m in perfect darkness

        I realize everything I’ve seen has been summoned by voices

        And a new one is articulating a darkness about me

        I touch my eyes

        They’re closed

        I open them

        I’m standing alone on an empty plain, beneath a single burning star

        I raise my hand to my lips

        They’re moving

   
Previously published by Emergency Press

   

   

_____

   

   
by Lori Desrosiers

   
Wrestling with the Poem

   
        We pose opposite one another
        like Hercules and the Cretan Bull,
        but the mad beast gets away from me again,
        terrorizing the lands beyond my desk,
        here in Massachusetts, not in Greece.
        Some days I try to sneak up on him, guerilla style,
        but he dances away,
        snorting at my inadequacies.
        Despite my study of poetics,
        my piece of paper on the wall,
        the innocuous M.F.A.,
        a two year’s journey into conversation,
        followed by workshops with the best of poets,
        a foray into teaching is inspiring,
        a few good sparks, perhaps a flame,
        the match continues.
        We fall together.
        When I find a hold,
        the poem slithers out, that oily boy.
        So, I look for a new move,
        try a poem a day, a practice,
        in thirty days a few good possibilities.
        Now there are thirty new bulls
        wrestling me to the ground.

   

   

_____

   

 Jgremillot's Bassin d'Encelade, at Versailles Castle, Sculpted by Gaspard Marsy 1675-1677, photo 2005

   

_____

January 28, 2008

Lite Verse with No Cholesterol or Trans Fat, by 33 Already Dead Poets, 6 Unknown Anyway

~~~~~

 


   

The following poems are selected from the 1920 collection The Book of Humorous Verse, edited by Carolyn Wells (1862-1942).    Each poet is represented only once, and in alphabetical order. However, links are provided so that you can investigate each one.
 

~~~~~

 


   

by L. J. Bridgman (1857-1931)
 

On Knowing When to Stop
 

The woodchuck told it all about.
    “I’m going to build a dwelling
Six stories high, up to the sky!”
    He never tired of telling.

He dug the cellar smooth and well
    But made no more advances;
That lovely hole so pleased his soul
    And satisfied his fancies.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Robert Browning (1812-1889)
 

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
 

    Hamelin Town’s in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover City;
    The river Weser, deep and wide,
    Washes its wall on the southern side;
    A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But when begins my ditty,
    Almost five hundred years ago,
    To see the townsfolk suffer so
        From vermin was a pity.

        Rats!
They fought the dogs, and killed the cats,
    And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
    And licked the soup from the cook’s own ladles,
    Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
    Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats,
    And even spoiled the women’s chats,
        By drowning their speaking
        With shrieking and squeaking
    In fifty different sharps and flats.

    At last the people in a body
        To the Town Hall came flocking:
    “Tis clear,” cried they, “our Mayor’s a noddy;
        And as for our Corporation—shocking
    To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
    For dolts that can’t or won’t determine
    What’s best to rid us of our vermin!
    You hope, because you’re old and obese,
    To find in the furry civic robe ease?
    Rouse up, Sirs! Give your brains a racking
    To find the remedy we’re lacking,
    Or, sure as fate, we’ll send you packing!”
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.

    An hour they sate in council,
        At length the Mayor broke silence:
    “For a guilder I’d my ermine gown sell!
        I wish I were a mile hence!
    It’s easy to bid one rack one’s brain—
    I’m sure my poor head aches again
    I’ve scratched it so, and all in vain.
    Oh, for a trap, a trap, a trap!”

Just as he said this, what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
“Bless us,” cried the Mayor, “what’s that?”
(With the Corporation as he sat,
Looking little though wondrous fat;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister,
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous
For a plate of turtle green and glutinous),
“Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!”

“Come in!”—the Mayor cried, looking bigger:
And in did come the strangest figure.
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red;
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in;
There was no guessing his kith and kin:
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: “It’s as my great grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom’s tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!”

He advanced to the council-table;
And, “Please your honours,” said he, “I’m able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole and toad and newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper.”
(And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the selfsame cheque;
And at the scarf’s end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
“Yet,” said he, “poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarms of gnats;
I eased in Asia the Nizam
Of a monstrous brood of vampyre bats:
And as for what your brain bewilders,
If I can rid your town of rats,
Will you give me a thousand guilders?”
“One? fifty thousand!” was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.

Into the street the Piper stept,
    Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
    In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled
Like a candle flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the house the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
    Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
    Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives—
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step by step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser
Wherein all plunged and perished
—Save one, who, stout as Julius Cæsar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As he the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary,
Which was, “At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples wondrous ripe,
Into a cider-press’s gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks:

And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery
Is breathed) called out, Oh rats, rejoice!
The world is grown to one vast drysaltery!
So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!
And just as a bulky sugar puncheon,
All ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said, Come, bore me!
—I found the Weser rolling o’er me.”

You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
“Go,” cried the Mayor, “and get long poles!
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders,
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!”—when suddenly, up the face
Of the piper perked in the market-place,
With a “First, if you please, my thousand guilders!”

A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havock
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar’s biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gipsy coat of red and yellow!
“Beside,” quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
“Our business was done at the river’s brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what’s dead can’t come to life, I think.
So, friend, we’re not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something to drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as you very well know, was in joke;
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty:
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!”

The Piper’s face fell, and he cried,
“No trifling! I can’t wait, beside!
I’ve promised to visit by dinner time
Bagdad, and accept the prime
Of the Head Cook’s pottage, all he’s rich in,
For having left in the Caliph’s kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor:
With him I proved no bargain-driver,
With you, don’t think I’ll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe after another fashion.”

“How?” cried the Mayor, “d’ye think I’ll brook
Being worse treated than a Cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!”

Once more he stept into the street;
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician’s cunning
    Never gave the enraptured air),
There was a rustling, that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farmyard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.

The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step, or cry
To the children merrily skipping by,
And could only follow with the eye

That joyous crowd at the Piper’s back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack,
And the wretched Council’s bosoms beat,
As the Piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its waters
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However he turned from South to West,
And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
“He never can cross that mighty top!
    He’s forced to let the piping drop,
And we shall see our children stop!”
When, lo, as they reached the mountain’s side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern were suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
Did I say—all? No! one was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,—
“It’s dull in our town since my playmates left;
I can’t forget that I’m bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me;
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings;
And horses were born with eagle’s wings;
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped, and I stood still,
And found myself outside the Hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!”

Alas, alas, for Hamelin!
    There came into many a burgher’s pate
    A text which says, that Heaven’s Gate
    Opes to the Rich at as easy rate
As the needle’s eye takes a camel in!
The Mayor sent East, West, North, and South,
To offer the Piper by word of mouth,
    Wherever it was men’s lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart’s content,
If he’d only return the way he went,
    And bring the children all behind him.
But when they saw ’twas a lost endeavour,
And Piper and dancers were gone for ever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
    Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear,
    “And so long after what happened here
    On the twenty-second of July,
Thirteen hundred and seventy-six:”
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the Children’s last retreat,
They called it the Pied Piper’s Street—
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labour.
Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern
    To shock with mirth a street so solemn;
But opposite the place of the cavern
    They wrote the story on a column.
And on the great Church Window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away,
And there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That in Transylvania there’s a tribe
Of alien people that ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress,
On which their neighbours lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterraneous prison,
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick Land,
But how or why, they don’t understand.

So, Willy, let me and you be wipers
Of scores out with all men—especially pipers;
And, whether they pipe us free from rats or from mice,
If we’ve promised them aught, let us keep our promise.
 

 
                                                                       

~~~~~

 


   

by H. C. Bunner (1855-1896)
 

Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe
 

                        I

I have a bookcase, which is what
Many much better men have not.
There are no books inside, for books,
I am afraid, might spoil its looks.
But I’ve three busts, all second-hand,
Upon the top. You understand
I could not put them underneath—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.

                        II

Shake was a dramatist of note;
He lived by writing things to quote,
He long ago put on his shroud:
Some of his works are rather loud.
His bald-spot’s dusty, I suppose.
I know there’s dust upon his nose.
I’ll have to give each nose a sheath—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.

                    III

Mulleary’s line was quite the same;
He has more hair, but far less fame.
I would not from that fame retrench—
But he is foreign, being French.
Yet high his haughty head he heaves,
The only one done up in leaves,
They’re rather limited on wreath—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.

                        IV

Go-ethe wrote in the German tongue:
He must have learned it very young.
His nose is quite a butt for scoff,
Although an inch of it is off.
He did quite nicely for the Dutch;
But here he doesn’t count for much.
They all are off their native heath—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.

                        V

They sit there, on their chests, as bland
As if they were not second-hand.
I do not know of what they think,
Nor why they never frown or wink,
But why from smiling they refrain
I think I clearly can explain:
They none of them could show much teeth—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Phoebe Cary (1824-1871)
 

Reuben
 

That very time I saw, (but thou couldst not),
Walking between the garden and the barn,
Reuben, all armed; a certain aim he took
At a young chicken, standing by a post,
And loosed his bullet smartly from his gun,
As he would kill a hundred thousand hens.
But I might see young Reuben’s fiery shot
Lodged in the chaste board of the garden fence,
And the domesticated fowl passed on
In henly meditation, bullet free.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson, 1832-1898)
 

Jabberwocky
 

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
    Long time the manxome foe he sought.
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
    And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through, and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh, frabjous day! Callooh! callay!”
    He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves
    And the mome raths outgrabe.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by H. Cholmondeley-Pennell (1837-1915)
 

Lay of the Deserted Influenzaed
 

Doe, doe!
    I shall dever see her bore!
Dever bore our feet shall rove
    The beadows as of yore!
Dever bore with byrtle boughs
    Her tresses shall I twide—
Dever bore her bellow voice
    Bake bellody with bide!
Dever shall we lidger bore,
    Abid the flow’rs at dood,
Dever shall we gaze at dight
    Upon the tedtder bood!
        Ho, doe, doe!
    Those berry tibes have flowd,
Ad I shall dever see her bore,
    By beautiful! by owd!
        Ho, doe, doe!
    I shall dever see her bore,
She will forget be id a bonth,
    (Bost probably before)—
She will forget the byrtle boughs,
    The flow’rs we plucked at dood,
Our beetigs by the tedtder stars.
    Our gazigs at the bood.
Ad I shall dever see agaid
    The Lily and the Rose;
The dabask cheek! the sdowy brow!
    The perfect bouth ad dose!
        Ho, doe, doe!
    Those berry tibes have flowd—
Ad I shall dever see her bore,
    By beautiful! by owd!!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Allan Cunningham (1784-1842)
 

John Grumlie
 

John Grumlie swore by the light o’ the moon
    And the green leaves on the tree,
That he could do more work in a day
    Than his wife could do in three.
His wife rose up in the morning
    Wi’ cares and troubles enow—
John Grumlie bide at hame, John,
    And I’ll go haud the plow.

First ye maun dress your children fair,
    And put them a’ in their gear;
And ye maun turn the malt, John,
    Or else ye’ll spoil the beer;
And ye maun reel the tweel, John,
    That I span yesterday;
And ye maun ca’ in the hens, John,
    Else they’ll all lay away.

O he did dress his children fair,
    And put them a’ in their gear;
But he forgot to turn the malt,
    And so he spoil’d the beer:
And he sang loud as he reeled the tweel
    That his wife span yesterday;
But he forgot to put up the hens,
    And the hens all layed away.

The hawket crummie loot down nae milk;
    He kirned, nor butter gat;
And a’ gade wrang, and nought gade right;
    He danced with rage, and grat;
Then up he ran to the head o’ the knowe
    Wi’ mony a wave and shout—
She heard him as she heard him not,
    And steered the stots about.

John Grumlie’s wife cam hame at e’en,
    A weary wife and sad,
And burst into a laughter loud,
    And laughed as she’d been mad:
While John Grumlie swore by the light o’ the moon
    And the green leaves on the tree,
If my wife should na win a penny a day
    She’s aye have her will for me.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Nathan Haskell Dole (1852-1935)
 

Our Native Birds
 

Alone I sit at eventide;
    The twilight glory pales,
And o’er the meadows far and wide
    I hear the bobolinks—
    (We have no nightingales!)

Song-sparrows warble on the tree,
    I hear the purling brook,
And from the old manse on the lea
    Flies slow the cawing crow—
    (In England ’twere a rook!)

The last faint golden beams of day
    Still glow on cottage panes,
And on their lingering homeward way
    Walk weary laboring men—
    (Alas! we have no swains!)

From farmyards, down fair rural glades
    Come sounds of tinkling bells,
And songs of merry brown milkmaids
    Sweeter than catbird’s strains—
    (I should say Philomel’s!)

I could sit here till morning came,
    All through the night hours dark,
Until I saw the sun’s bright flame
    And heard the oriole—
    (Alas! we have no lark!)

We have no leas, no larks, no rooks,
    No swains, no nightingales,
No singing milkmaids (save in books)
    The poet does his best:—
    It is the rhyme that fails.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Catherine Fanshawe (1765-1834)
 

Enigma on the Letter H
 

‘Twas whispered in heaven, ’twas muttered in hell,
And echo caught faintly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth ’twas permitted to rest,
And the depths of the ocean its presence confessed;
‘Twill be found in the sphere when ’tis riven asunder,
Be seen in the lightning, and heard in the thunder.
‘Twas allotted to man with his earliest breath,
It assists at his birth and attends him in death,
Presides o’er his happiness, honor, and health,
Is the prop of his house and the end of his wealth,
In the heaps of the miser is hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost in his prodigal heir.
It begins every hope, every wish it must bound,
It prays with the hermit, with monarchs is crowned;
Without it the soldier, the sailor, may roam,
But woe to the wretch who expels it from home.
In the whisper of conscience ’tis sure to be found,
Nor e’en in the whirlwind of passion is drowned;
‘Twill soften the heart, but, though deaf to the ear,
It will make it acutely and instantly hear;
But, in short, let it rest like a delicate flower;
Oh, breathe on it softly, it dies in an hour.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Eugene Field (1850-1895)
 

Dutch Lullaby
 

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
    Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of misty light
    Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
    The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
    That live in this beautiful sea;
    Nets of silver and gold have we,”
            Said Wynken,
            Blynken,
            And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sung a song,
    As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
    Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
    That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,
    But never afeard are we!”
    So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
            Wynken,
            Blynken,
            And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
    For the fish in the twinkling foam,
Then down from the sky came the wooden shoe,
    Bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
    As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
    Of sailing that beautiful sea;
    But I shall name you the fishermen three:
            Wynken,
            Blynken,
            And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
    And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
    Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
    Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
    As you rock on the misty sea
    Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three,
            Wynken,
            Blynken,
            And Nod.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by J. W. Foley (1874-1939)
 

Nemesis
 

The man who invented the women’s waists that button down behind,
And the man who invented the cans with keys and the strips that will never wind,
Were put to sea in a leaky boat and with never a bite to eat
But a couple of dozen of patent cans in which was their only meat.

And they sailed and sailed o’er the ocean wide and never they had a taste
Of aught to eat, for the cans stayed shut, and a peek-a-boo shirtwaist
Was all they had to bale the brine that came in the leaky boat;
And their tongues were thick and their throats were dry, and they barely kept afloat.

They came at last to an island fair, and a man stood on the shore.
So they flew a signal of distress and their hopes rose high once more,
And they called to him to fetch a boat, for their craft was sinking fast,
And a couple of hours at best they knew was all their boat would last.

So he called to them a cheery call and he said he would make haste,
But first he must go back to his wife and button up her waist,
Which would only take him an hour or so and then he would fetch a boat.
And the man who invented the backstairs waist, he groaned in his swollen throat.

The hours passed by on leaden wings and they saw another man
In the window of a bungalow, and he held a tin meat can
In his bleeding hands, and they called to him, not once but twice and thrice,
And he said: “Just wait till I open this and I’ll be there in a trice!”

And the man who invented the patent cans he knew what the promise meant,
So he leaped in air with a horrid cry and into the sea he went,
And the bubbles rose where he sank and sank and a groan choked in the throat
Of the man who invented the backstairs waist and he sank with the leaky boat!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)
 

The Meeting of the Clabberhuses
 

                            I

He was the Chairman of the Guild
    Of Early Pleiocene Patriarchs;
He was chief Mentor of the Lodge
    Of the Oracular Oligarchs;
He was the Lord High Autocrat
    And Vizier of the Sons of Light,
And Sultan and Grand Mandarin
    Of the Millennial Men of Might.

He was Grand Totem and High Priest
    Of the Independent Potentates;
Grand Mogul of the Galaxy
    Of the Illustrious Stay-out-lates;
The President of the Dandydudes,
    The Treasurer of the Sons of Glee;
The Leader of the Clubtown Band
    And Architects of Melody.

                            II

She was Grand Worthy Prophetess
    Of the Illustrious Maids of Mark;
Of Vestals of the Third Degree
    She was Most Potent Matriarch;
She was High Priestess of the Shrine
    Of Clubtown’s Culture Coterie,
And First Vice-President of the League
    Of the illustrious G. A. B.

She was the First Dame of the Club
    For teaching Patagonians Greek;
She was Chief Clerk and Auditor
    Of Clubtown’s Anti-Bachelor Clique;
She was High Treasurer of the Fund
    For Borrioboolighalians,
And the Fund for Sending Browning’s Poems
    To Native-born Australians.

                            III

Once to a crowded social fête
    Both these much-titled people came,
And each perceived, when introduced,
    They had the selfsame name.
Their hostess said, when first they met:
    “Permit me now to introduce
My good friend Mr. Clabberhuse
    To Mrs. Clabberhuse.”

“‘Tis very strange,” said she to him,
    “Such an unusual name!—
A name so very seldom heard,
    That we should bear the same.”
“Indeed, ’tis wonderful,” said he,
    “And I’m surprised the more,
Because I never heard the name
    Outside my home before.

“But now I come to look at you,”
    Said he, “upon my life,
If I am not indeed deceived,
    You are—you are—my wife.”
She gazed into his searching face
    And seemed to look him through;
“Indeed,” said she, “it seems to me
    You are my husband, too.

“I’ve been so busy with my clubs
    And in my various spheres
I have not seen you now,” she said,
    “For over fourteen years.”
“That’s just the way it’s been with me,
    These clubs demand a sight”—
And then they both politely bowed,
    And sweetly said “Good night.”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by W. S. Gilbert (1836-1911)
 

Etiquette
 

The Ballyshannon foundered off the coast of Cariboo,
And down in fathoms many went the captain and the crew;
Down went the owners—greedy men whom hope of gain allured:
Oh, dry the starting tear, for they were heavily insured.

Besides the captain and the mate, the owners and the crew,
The passengers were also drowned excepting only two:
Young Peter Gray, who tasted teas for Baker, Croop, and Co.,
And Somers, who from Eastern shores imported indigo.

These passengers, by reason of their clinging to a mast,
Upon a desert island were eventually cast.
They hunted for their meals, as Alexander Selkirk used,
But they couldn’t chat together—they had not been introduced.

For Peter Gray, and Somers, too, though certainly in trade,
Were properly particular about the friends they made;
And somehow thus they settled it, without a word of mouth,
That Gray should take the northern half, while Somers took the south.

On Peter’s portion oysters grew—a delicacy rare,
But oysters were a delicacy Peter couldn’t bear.
On Somer’s side was turtle, on the shingle lying thick,
Which Somers couldn’t eat, because it always made him sick.

Gray gnashed his teeth with envy as he saw a mighty store
Of turtle unmolested on his fellow-creature’s shore.
The oysters at his feet aside impatiently he shoved,
For turtle and his mother were the only things he loved.

And Somers sighed in sorrow as he settled in the south,
For the thought of Peter’s oysters brought the water to his mouth.
He longed to lay him down upon the shelly bed, and stuff:
He had often eaten oysters, but had never had enough.

How they wished an introduction to each other they had had
When on board the Ballyshannon! And it drove them nearly mad
To think how very friendly with each other they might get,
If it wasn’t for the arbitrary rule of etiquette!

One day, when out a-hunting for the mus ridiculus,
Gray overheard his fellow-man soliloquising thus:
“I wonder how the playmates of my youth are getting on,
M’Connell, S. B. Walters, Paddy Byles, and Robinson?”

These simple words made Peter as delighted as could be;
Old chummies at the Charterhouse were Robinson and he.
He walked straight up to Somers, then he turned extremely red,
Hesitated, hummed and hawed a bit, then cleared his throat, and said:

“I beg your pardon—pray forgive me if I seem too bold,
But you have breathed a name I knew familiarly of old.
You spoke aloud of Robinson—I happened to be by.
You know him?” “Yes, extremely well.” “Allow me, so do I.”

It was enough: they felt they could more pleasantly get on,
For (ah, the magic of the fact!) they each knew Robinson!
And Mr. Somers’ turtle was at Peter’s service quite,
And Mr. Somers punished Peter’s oyster-beds all night.

They soon became like brothers from community of wrongs;
They wrote each other little odes and sang each other songs;
They told each other anecdotes disparaging their wives;
On several occasions, too, they saved each other’s lives.

They felt quite melancholy when they parted for the night,
And got up in the morning soon as ever it was light;
Each other’s pleasant company they reckoned so upon,
And all because it happened that they both knew Robinson!

They lived for many years on that inhospitable shore,
And day by day they learned to love each other more and more.
At last, to their astonishment, on getting up one day,
They saw a frigate anchored in the offing of the bay.

To Peter an idea occurred. “Suppose we cross the main?
So good an opportunity may not be found again.”
And Somers thought a minute, then ejaculated, “Done!
I wonder how my business in the City’s getting on?”

“But stay,” said Mr. Peter; “when in England, as you know,
I earned a living tasting teas for Baker, Croop, and Co.,
I may be superseded—my employers think me dead!”
“Then come with me,” said Somers, “and taste indigo instead.”

But all their plans were scattered in a moment when they found
The vessel was a convict ship from Portland outward bound;
When a boat came off to fetch them, though they felt it very kind,
To go on board they firmly but respectfully declined.

As both the happy settlers roared with laughter at the joke,
They recognized a gentlemanly fellow pulling stroke:
‘Twas Robinson—a convict, in an unbecoming frock!
Condemned to seven years for misappropriating stock!!!

They laughed no more, for Somers thought he had been rather rash
In knowing one whose friend had misappropriated cash;
And Peter thought a foolish tack he must have gone upon
In making the acquaintance of a friend of Robinson.

At first they didn’t quarrel very openly, I’ve heard;
They nodded when they met, and now and then exchanged a word:
The word grew rare, and rarer still the nodding of the head.
And when they meet each other now, they cut each other dead.

To allocate the island they agreed by word of mouth,
And Peter takes the north again, and Somers takes the south;
And Peter has the oysters, which he hates, in layers thick,
And Somers has the turtle—turtle always makes him sick.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Wallace Irwin (1876-1959)
 

A Grain of Salt
 

Of all the wimming doubly blest
The sailor’s wife’s the happiest,
For all she does is stay to home
And knit and darn—and let ‘im roam.

Of all the husbands on the earth
The sailor has the finest berth,
For in ‘is cabin he can sit
And sail and sail—and let ‘er knit.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Ben King (1857-1894)
 

The Pessimist (The Sum of Life)
 

Nothing to do but work,
    Nothing to eat but food,
Nothing to wear but clothes,
    To keep one from going nude.

Nothing to breathe but air,
    Quick as a flash ‘t is gone;
Nowhere to fall but off,
    Nowhere to stand but on.

Nothing to comb but hair,
    Nowhere to sleep but in bed,
Nothing to weep but tears,
    Nothing to bury but dead.

Nothing to sing but songs,
    Ah, well, alas! alack!
Nowhere to go but out,
    Nowhere to come but back.

Nothing to see but sights,
    Nothing to quench but thirst,
Nothing to have but what we’ve got
    Thus through life we are cursed.

Nothing to strike but a gait;
    Everything moves that goes.
Nothing at all but common sense
    Can ever withstand these woes.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Edward Lear (1812-1888)
 

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
 

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
    In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, and plenty of money
    Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
    And sang to a small guitar,
“Oh, lovely Pussy, oh, Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
                You are,
                You are!
    What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl,
    How charmingly sweet you sing!
Oh, let us be married; too long we have tarried:
    But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away for a year and a day,
    To the land where the bong-tree grows;
And there in the wood a Piggy-wig stood,
    With a ring at the end of his nose,
                His nose,
                His nose,
    With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
    Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away and were married next day
    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
    They danced by the light of the moon,
                The moon,
                The moon,
    They danced by the light of the moon.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Henry S. Leigh (1837-1883)
 

The Twins
 

In form and feature, face and limb,
    I grew so like my brother,
That folks got taking me for him,
    And each for one another.
It puzzled all our kith and kin,
    It reach’d an awful pitch;
For one of us was born a twin,
    Yet not a soul knew which.

One day (to make the matter worse),
    Before our names were fix’d,
As we were being wash’d by nurse
    We got completely mix’d;
And thus, you see, by Fate’s decree,
    (Or rather nurse’s whim),
My brother John got christen’d me,
    And I got christen’d him.

This fatal likeness even dogg’d
    My footsteps when at school,
And I was always getting flogg’d,
    For John turned out a fool.
I put this question hopelessly
    To every one I knew—
What would you do, if you were me,
    To prove that you were you?

Our close resemblance turn’d the tide
    Of my domestic life;
For somehow my intended bride
    Became my brother’s wife.
In short, year after year the same
    Absurd mistakes went on;
And when I died—the neighbors came
    And buried brother John!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Charles Battell Loomis (1861-1911)
 

a fresh hack at an old knot
 

O-U-G-H
 

I’m taught p-l-o-u-g-h
    S’all be pronouncé “plow.”
“Zat’s easy w’en you know,” I say,
    “Mon Anglais, I’ll get through!”

My teacher say zat in zat case,
    O-u-g-h is “oo.”
And zen I laugh and say to him,
    “Zees Anglais make me cough.”

He say “Not ‘coo,’ but in zat word,
    O-u-g-h is ‘off,'”
Oh, Sacre bleu! such varied sounds
    Of words makes me hiccough!

He say, “Again mon frien’ ees wrong;
    O-u-g-h is ‘up’
In hiccough.” Zen I cry, “No more,
    You make my t’roat feel rough.”

“Non, non!” he cry, “you are not right;
    O-u-g-h is ‘uff.'”
I say, “I try to spik your words,
    I cannot spik zem though!”

“In time you’ll learn, but now you’re wrong!
    O-u-g-h is ‘owe.'”
“I’ll try no more, I s’all go mad,
    I’ll drown me in ze lough!”

“But ere you drown yourself,” said he,
    “O-u-g-h is ‘ock.'”
He taught no more, I held him fast,
    And killed him wiz a rough.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by William Maginn (1793-1842)
 

The Irishman and the Lady
 

    There was a lady liv’d at Leith,
        A lady very stylish, man;
    And yet, in spite of all her teeth,
        She fell in love with an Irishman—
            A nasty, ugly Irishman,
            A wild, tremendous Irishman,
A tearing, swearing, thumping, bumping, ranting, roaring Irishman.

    His face was no ways beautiful,
        For with small-pox ’twas scarr’d across;
    And the shoulders of the ugly dog
        Were almost double a yard across.
            Oh, the lump of an Irishman,
            The whiskey-devouring Irishman,
The great he-rogue with his wonderful brogue—the fighting, rioting
            Irishman!

    One of his eyes was bottle-green,
        And the other eye was out, my dear;
    And the calves of his wicked-looking legs
        Were more than two feet about, my dear.
            Oh, the great big Irishman,
            The rattling, battling Irishman—
The stamping, ramping, swaggering, staggering, leathering swash of an
            Irishman!

    He took so much of Lundy-foot
        That he used to snort and snuffle—O!
    And in shape and size the fellow’s neck
        Was as bad as the neck of a buffalo.
            Oh, the horrible Irishman,
            The thundering, blundering Irishman—
The slashing, dashing, smashing, lashing, thrashing, hashing Irishman!

    His name was a terrible name, indeed,
        Being Timothy Thady Mulligan;
    And whenever he emptied his tumbler of punch
        He’d not rest till he fill’d it full again.
            The boosing, bruising Irishman,
            The ‘toxicated Irishman—
The whiskey, frisky, rummy, gummy, brandy, no dandy Irishman!

    This was the lad the lady lov’d,
        Like all the girls of quality;
    And he broke the skulls of the men of Leith,
        Just by the way of jollity.
            Oh, the leathering Irishman,
            The barbarous, savage Irishman—
The hearts of the maids, and the gentlemen’s heads, were bothered, I’m
            sure, by this Irishman!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Tom Masson (1866-1934)
 

The Kiss
 

“What other men have dared, I dare,”
    He said. “I’m daring, too:
And tho’ they told me to beware,
    One kiss I’ll take from you.

“Did I say one? Forgive me, dear;
    That was a grave mistake,
For when I’ve taken one, I fear,
    One hundred more I’ll take.

“‘Tis sweet one kiss from you to win,
    But to stop there? Oh, no!
One kiss is only to begin;
    There is no end, you know.”

The maiden rose from where she sat
    And gently raised her head:
“No man has ever talked like that—
    You may begin,” she said.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
 

If You Have Seen
 

Good reader! if you e’er have seen,
    When Phœbus hastens to his pillow,
The mermaids, with their tresses green,
    Dancing upon the western billow:
If you have seen, at twilight dim,
When the lone spirit’s vesper hymn
    Floats wild along the winding shore:
If you have seen, through mist of eve,
The fairy train their ringlets weave,
Glancing along the spangled green;—
    If you have seen all this and more,
God bless me! what a deal you’ve seen!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Robert Henry Newell, a.k.a. Orpheus C. Kerr, (1836-1901)
 

A Great Fight
 

“There was a man in Arkansaw
    As let his passions rise,
And not unfrequently picked out
    Some other varmint’s eyes.

“His name was Tuscaloosa Sam
    And often he would say,
‘There’s not a cuss in Arkansaw
    I can’t whip any day.’

“One morn, a stranger passin’ by,
    Heard Sammy talkin’ so,
And down he scrambled from his hoss,
    And off his coat did go.

“He sorter kinder shut one eye,
    And spit into his hand,
And put his ugly head one side,
    And twitched his trowsers’ band.

“‘My boy,’ says he, ‘it’s my belief,
    Whomever you may be,
That I kin make you screech, and smell
    Pertiklor agony.’

“I’m thar,’ said Tuscaloosa Sam,
    And chucked his hat away;
‘I’m thar,’ says he, and buttoned up
    As far as buttons may.

“He thundered on the stranger’s mug,
    The stranger pounded he;
And oh! the way them critters fit
    Was beautiful to see.

“They clinched like two rampageous bears,
    And then went down a bit;
They swore a stream of six-inch oaths
    And fit, and fit, and fit.

“When Sam would try to work away,
    And on his pegs to git,
The stranger’d pull him back; and so,
    They fit, and fit, and fit!

“Then like a pair of lobsters, both
    Upon the ground were knit,
And yet the varmints used their teeth,
    And fit, and fit, and fit!!

“The sun of noon was high above,
    And hot enough to split,
But only riled the fellers more,
    That fit, and fit, and fit!!!

“The stranger snapped at Samy’s nose,
    And shortened it a bit;
And then they both swore awful hard,
    And fit, and fit, and fit!!!!

“The mud it flew, the sky grew dark,
    And all the litenins lit;
But still them critters rolled about,
    And fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!

“First Sam on top, then t’other chap;
    When one would make a hit,
The other’d smell the grass; and so
    They fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!!

“The night came on, the stars shone out
    As bright as wimmen’s wit;
And still them fellers swore and gouged,
    And fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!!!

“The neighbours heard the noise they made,
    And thought an earthquake lit;
Yet all the while ’twas him and Sam
    As fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!!!!

“For miles around the noise was heard;
    Folks couldn’t sleep a bit,
Because them two rantankerous chaps
    Still fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!!!!!

“But jist at cock-crow, suddenly,
    There came an awful pause,
And I and my old man run out
    To ascertain the cause.

“The sun was rising in the yeast,
    And lit the hull concern;
But not a sign of either chap
    Was found at any turn.

“Yet, in the region where they fit,
    We found, to our surprise,
One pint of buttons, two big knives,
    Some whiskers, and four, eyes!”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by E. H. Palmer (1840-1882)
 

The Shipwreck
 

Upon the poop the captain stands,
    As starboard as may be;
And pipes on deck the topsail hands
To reef the topsail-gallant strands
    Across the briny sea.

“Ho! splice the anchor under-weigh!”
    The captain loudly cried;
“Ho! lubbers brave, belay! belay!
For we must luff for Falmouth Bay
    Before to-morrow’s tide.”

The good ship was a racing yawl,
    A spare-rigged schooner sloop,
Athwart the bows the taffrails all
In grummets gay appeared to fall,
    To deck the mainsail poop.

But ere they made the Foreland Light,
    And Deal was left behind,
The wind it blew great gales that night,
And blew the doughty captain tight,
    Full three sheets in the wind.

And right across the tiller head
    The horse it ran apace,
Whereon a traveller hitched and sped
Along the jib and vanished
    To heave the trysail brace.

What ship could live in such a sea?
    What vessel bear the shock?
“Ho! starboard port your helm-a-lee!
Ho! reef the maintop-gallant-tree,
    With many a running block!”

And right upon the Scilly Isles
    The ship had run aground;
When lo! the stalwart Captain Giles
Mounts up upon the gaff and smiles,
    And slews the compass round.

“Saved! saved!” with joy the sailors cry,
    And scandalize the skiff;
As taut and hoisted high and dry
They see the ship unstoppered lie
    Upon the sea-girt cliff.

And since that day in Falmouth Bay,
    As herring-fishers trawl,
The younkers hear the boatswains say
How Captain Giles that awful day
    Preserved the sinking yawl.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by J. R. Planché (1796-1880)
 

Song
 

Three score and ten by common calculation
    The years of man amount to; but we’ll say
He turns four-score, yet, in my estimation,
    In all those years he has not lived a day.

Out of the eighty you must first remember
    The hours of night you pass asleep in bed;
And, counting from December to December,
    Just half your life you’ll find you have been dead.

To forty years at once by this reduction
    We come; and sure, the first five from your birth,
While cutting teeth and living upon suction,
    You’re not alive to what this life is worth.

From thirty-five next take for education
    Fifteen at least at college and at school;
When, notwithstanding all your application,
    The chances are you may turn out a fool.

Still twenty we have left us to dispose of,
    But during them your fortune you’ve to make;
And granting, with the luck of some one knows of,
    ‘Tis made in ten—that’s ten from life to take.

Out of the ten yet left you must allow for
    The time for shaving, tooth and other aches,
Say four—and that leaves, six, too short, I vow, for
    Regretting past and making fresh mistakes.

Meanwhile each hour dispels some fond illusion;
    Until at length, sans eyes, sans teeth, you may
Have scarcely sense to come to this conclusion—
    You’ve reached four-score, but haven’t lived a day!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
 

When the Frost Is on the Punkin
 

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bare-headed, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ hearty-like about the atmosphere,
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetisin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty rustle of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermons to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my heart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Ernest Lawrence Thayer (1863-1940)
 

Casey at the Bat
 

It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day,
The score stood four to six with but an inning left to play.
And so, when Cooney died at first, and Burrows did the same,
A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go, leaving there the rest,
With that hope which springs eternal within the human breast.
For they thought if only Casey could get a whack at that,
They’d put up even money with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, and likewise so did Blake,
And the former was a pudding and the latter was a fake;
So on that stricken multitude a death-like silence sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single to the wonderment of all,
And the much despisèd Blakey tore the cover off the ball,
And when the dust had lifted and they saw what had occurred,
There was Blakey safe on second, and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from the gladdened multitude went up a joyous yell,
It bounded from the mountain top and rattled in the dell,
It struck upon the hillside, and rebounded on the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place,
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face,
And when responding to the cheers he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt, ’twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt,
Five thousand tongues applauded as he wiped them on his shirt;
And while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip—
Defiance gleamed from Casey’s eye—a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there;
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That hain’t my style,” said Casey—“Strike one,” the Umpire said.
From the bleachers black with people there rose a sullen roar,
Like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore,
“Kill him! kill the Umpire!” shouted some one from the stand—
And it’s likely they’d have done it had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone,
He stilled the rising tumult and he bade the game go on;
He signalled to the pitcher and again the spheroid flew,
But Casey still ignored it and the Umpire said “Strike two.”
“Fraud!” yelled the maddened thousands, and the echo answered “Fraud,”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed;
They saw his face grow stern and cold; they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey would not let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip; his teeth are clenched with hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
Oh! somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has “Struck Out.”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Paul West (1871-1918)
 

The Cumberbunce
 

I strolled beside the shining sea,
I was as lonely as could be;
No one to cheer me in my walk
But stones and sand, which cannot talk—
Sand and stones and bits of shell,
Which never have a thing to tell.

But as I sauntered by the tide
I saw a something at my side,
A something green, and blue, and pink,
And brown, and purple, too, I think.
I would not say how large it was;
I would not venture that, because
It took me rather by surprise,
And I have not the best of eyes.

Should you compare it to a cat,
I’d say it was as large as that;
Or should you ask me if the thing
Was smaller than a sparrow’s wing,
I should be apt to think you knew,
And simply answer, “Very true!”

Well, as I looked upon the thing,
It murmured, “Please, sir, can I sing?”
And then I knew its name at once—
It plainly was a Cumberbunce.

You are amazed that I could tell
The creature’s name so quickly? Well,
I knew it was not a paper-doll,
A pencil or a parasol,
A tennis-racket or a cheese,
And, as it was not one of these,
And I am not a perfect dunce—
It had to be a Cumberbunce!

With pleading voice and tearful eye
It seemed as though about to cry.
It looked so pitiful and sad
It made me feel extremely bad.
My heart was softened to the thing
That asked me if it, please, could sing.
Its little hand I longed to shake,
But, oh, it had no hand to take!
I bent and drew the creature near,
And whispered in its pale blue ear,
“What! Sing, my Cumberbunce? You can!
Sing on, sing loudly, little man!”

The Cumberbunce, without ado,
Gazed sadly on the ocean blue,
And, lifting up its little head,
In tones of awful longing, said:

        “Oh, I would sing of mackerel skies,
            And why the sea is wet,
        Of jelly-fish and conger-eels,
            And things that I forget.
        And I would hum a plaintive tune
            Of why the waves are hot
        As water boiling on a stove,
            Excepting that they’re not!

        “And I would sing of hooks and eyes,
            And why the sea is slant,
        And gayly tips the little ships,
            Excepting that I can’t!
        I never sang a single song,
            I never hummed a note.
        There is in me no melody,
            No music in my throat.

        “So that is why I do not sing
        Of sharks, or whales, or anything!”

I looked in innocent surprise,
My wonder showing in my eyes,
“Then why, O, Cumberbunce,” I cried,
“Did you come walking at my side
And ask me if you, please, might sing,
When you could not warble anything?”

“I did not ask permission, sir,
I really did not, I aver.
You, sir, misunderstood me, quite.
I did not ask you if I might.
Had you correctly understood,
You’d know I asked you if I could.
So, as I cannot sing a song,
Your answer, it is plain, was wrong.
The fact I could not sing I knew,
But wanted your opinion, too.”

    A voice came softly o’er the lea.
    “Farewell! my mate is calling me!”

I saw the creature disappear,
Its voice, in parting, smote my ear—
“I thought all people understood
The difference ‘twixt ‘might’ and ‘could’!”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

poet unknown
 

Any One Will Do
 

A maiden once, of certain age,
To catch a husband did engage;
But, having passed the prime of life
In striving to become a wife
Without success, she thought it time
To mend the follies of her prime.

Departing from the usual course
Of paint and such like for resource,
With all her might this ancient maid
Beneath an oak-tree knelt and prayed;
Unconscious that a grave old owl
Was perched above—the mousing fowl!

“Oh, give! a husband give!” she cried,
“While yet I may become a bride;
Soon will my day of grace be o’er,
And then, like many maids before,
I’ll die without an early Jove,
And none to meet me there above!

“Oh, ’tis a fate too hard to bear!
Then answer this my humble prayer,
And oh, a husband give to me!”
Just then the owl from out the tree,
In deep bass tones cried, “Who—who—who!”
“Who, Lord? And dost Thou ask me who?
Why, any one, good Lord, will do.”
 

 

~~~~~

 

poet unknown
 

The Bells
 

Oh, it’s H-A-P-P-Y I am, and it’s F-R-double-E,
And it’s G-L-O-R-Y to know that I’m S-A-V-E-D.
Once I was B-O-U-N-D by the chains of S-I-N
And it’s L-U-C-K-Y I am that all is well again.

Oh, the bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
    For you, but not for me.
The bells of Heaven go sing-a-ling-a-ling
    For there I soon shall be.
Oh, Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling
    Oh, Grave, thy victorie-e.
No Ting-a-ling-a-ling, no sting-a-ling-a-ling
    But sing-a-ling-a-ling for me.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

poet unknown
 

Homœopathic Soup
 

    Take a robin’s leg
(Mind, the drumstick merely);
    Put it in a tub
Filled with water nearly;
    Set it out of doors,
In a place that’s shady;
    Let it stand a week
(Three days if for a lady);
    Drop a spoonful of it
In a five-pail kettle,
    Which may be made of tin
Or any baser metal;
    Fill the kettle up,
Set it on a boiling,
    Strain the liquor well,
To prevent its oiling;
    One atom add of salt,
For the thickening one rice kernel,
    And use to light the fire
“The Homœopathic Journal.”
    Let the liquor boil
Half an hour, no longer,
    (If ’tis for a man
Of course you’ll make it stronger).
    Should you now desire
That the soup be flavoury,
    Stir it once around,
With a stalk of savoury.
    When the broth is made,
Nothing can excell it:
    Then three times a day
Let the patient smell it.
    If he chance to die,
Say ’twas Nature did it:
    If he chance to live,
Give the soup the credit.
 

 

~~~~~

 

poet unknown
 

Love’s Moods and Senses
 

Sally Salter, she was a young lady who taught,
And her friend Charley Church was a preacher who praught!
Though his enemies called him a screecher who scraught.

His heart when he saw her kept sinking and sunk,
And his eye, meeting hers, began winking and wunk;
While she in her turn fell to thinking, and thunk.

He hastened to woo her, and sweetly he wooed,
For his love grew until to a mountain it grewed,
And what he was longing to do then he doed.

In secret he wanted to speak, and he spoke,
To seek with his lips what his heart long had soke;
So he managed to let the truth leak, and it loke.

He asked her to ride to the church, and they rode,
They so sweetly did glide, that they both thought they glode,
And they came to the place to be tied, and were tode.

Then, “homeward” he said, “let us drive” and they drove,
And soon as they wished to arrive, they arrove;
For whatever he couldn’t contrive she controve.

The kiss he was dying to steal, then he stole:
At the feet where he wanted to kneel, then he knole,
And said, “I feel better than ever I fole.”

So they to each other kept clinging, and clung;
While time his swift circuit was winging, and wung;
And this was the thing he was bringing, and brung:

The man Sally wanted to catch, and had caught—
That she wanted from others to snatch, and had snaught—
Was the one that she now liked to scratch and she scraught.

And Charley’s warm love began freezing and froze,
While he took to teasing, and cruelly toze
The girl he had wished to be squeezing and squoze.

“Wretch!” he cried, when she threatened to leave him, and left,
“How could you deceive me, as you have deceft?”
And she answered, “I promised to cleave, and I’ve cleft!”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

poet unknown
 

The Modern Hiawatha
 

He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside;
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That’s why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside.
Why he turned them inside outside.
 

 

~~~~~

 

poet unknown
 

Rural Raptures
 

‘Tis sweet at dewy eve to rove
    When softly sighs the western breeze,
And wandering ‘mid the starlit grove
    To take a pinch of snuff and sneeze.

‘Tis sweet to see in daisied field
    The flocks and herds their pleasure take;
But sweeter are the joys they yield
    In tender chop and juicy steak.

‘Tis sweet to hear the murmurous sound
    That from the vocal woods doth rise,
To mark the pigeons wheeling round,
    And think how nice they’d be in pies.

When nightingales pour from their throats
    Their gushing melody, ’tis sweet;
Yet sweeter ’tis to catch the notes
    That issue from Threadneedle Street.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

~~~~~

 


   

~~~~~

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.