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National Poetry Month

I learned from Matt (of The Tattered Coat) that April is National Poetry Month. He's been sharing some poems and personal reminiscences over the last few weeks. Although I was an English major, poetry classes were always the hardest for me. With an attention span seriously attenuated by years of watching TV (that's my excuse, anyway), poetry always seemed like such work. It's not something to be skimmed, the way I would read a newspaper, it's something to be savored and lingered over. I was always richly rewarded when I spent time reading a poem carefully, however. Some of my favorite poets include Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Emily Dickinson.

I actually wrote a poem once for a class I took in college in 1989 called “British Writers II.” The assignment was to write a poem in heroic couplets in the style of Alexander Pope. Since April is also National Recycling Month, I thought I would post it here. As you might have guessed, it's about cats.


Crime and Punishment


The golden prize, now freed from treasure chest,
To burglar's mind did foolish schemes suggest.
Imprudent plans of plunder soon were made
Without a thought to retribution paid.
For mad designs can never go astray
When injudicious villain's pride holds sway.
Too late for him the bitter lesson learned:
Temptation's siren song should e'er be spurned.

The precious prize, though gilded, was not gold,
But just a humble wedge all streaked with mold.
The prize was cheese, the battlefield, a house;
The hapless thief foredoomed was just a mouse.

His twitching nose this cheese sniffed on the air,
The yellow bullion's smell was quite unfair
Although his expert nose was quite refined,
He could not name the cheese for which he pined.
The scent was from a cheese veined through and through,
If not a Stilton, then some other Blue.

This food sublime, he craved the chance to eat,
And so resolved to snatch that tasty treat.
With that he hatched a plan in no time flat,
Too bad he did not reckon with the Cat.

This cat, Symplegades, was aptly named,
Her teeth, for catching mice, were justly famed.
To guard the cheese her master gave his trust,
He knew the faith he placed in her was just.

That night the master's table sat uncleared,
The mouse's hunger grew as midnight neared.
With stealth and care he padded 'cross the floor,
'Til finally he faced the kitchen door.

The prize was close at hand, his nose decried,
When suddenly Symplegades he spied.
Though fast asleep, the tabby cat now stirred,
And thus great fear to mouse's heart conferred.
But hunger and the thought of cheese so sweet,
Made satisfaction dearer than defeat.

So wary mouse on noiseless feet embarked,
With care he hoped to leave his path unmarked.
But feline instinct keen did mouse provoke,
Unknown to him, the sleeping sentry woke.
The cat, though taut as bowstring, gave no sign,
She waited for the mouse to cross the line.
A few steps more, he saw the goal was nigh,
When suddenly he turned and gave a cry.

Symplegades attacked with mighty spring,
To mice a certain death she vowed to bring.
O'er top of him the massive hulk now loomed,
With whirling limbs in full retreat he zoomed.
The guardian's miscalculated pounce
Failed utterly her furry foe to trounce.
The cat's campaign seemed destined now to fail--
She leaped again and landed on his tail.
Blind panic foiled his struggle to get free,
Escape was hopeless, clearly he could see.
The yawning jaw found neck and closed to cut,
The mighty dental rocks came rushing shut.

Poor mouse! The golden treasure must forsake,
He found a sleep from which he'd never wake.
If asked, I'm sure, he surely would have said
Emphatically, he should have stayed in bed!

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