You Judges! You are judging, are you not,
Those poems with which your inbox daily swells?
The gods of online contests, you have got
Control of literary heavens and hells.
Yet some pre-teen, with angsty love besot,
Who's rhyming's even worse than how he spells,
May blaspheme with his blundering verse immoral,
Email the piece to you, and wear the laurel.
It matters not what kind of verse you get,
What form, what meter, what the subject is:
You'll laud "An Ode to My Dead Marmoset,"
The narrative: "Carl Sandburg Takes a Whiz."
You'll heap with praise what others would not let
Advance, and who, when prompted "Delete this?"
Would click on "yes" and be done with such drivel —
Some writers' hopes should be allowed to shrivel.
But no! To seek art you have no intention.
But, gods of contests, come between the naive
And their pockets with divine intervention.
Untrue tales of their talent you will weave,
(Selection based on merit? A pretension!)
If of their hard-earned paychecks they'll take leave.
You care not for the fruits of etymology,
But only for the sale of your anthology.
To you I dedicate my light foray
Into the life of one bad poet, who,
Though I have changed his name, lives to this day,
A dumb victim of all the wrong you do.
And to you all, I only warn you: pray
For mercy from some god greater than you,
Lest gods be made of literary scholars
Who write with skill and hold on to their dollars.
I want a poet: an uncommon want
When online judge can always find a new one;
But when he tries out more respected haunts,
Said "poet's" readers find he's not a true one.
Such half-baked talents I half loathe to flaunt,
But nonetheless will write of poor Ron Truman,
Because, although he wrote appalling verse,
For plot and character I could do worse.
So, then, our Ron was born in Chesapeake,
His father a most unaesthetic devil.
(He was a mathematician, so to speak;
That is to say, taught math at tenth grade level.)
His mother tended bar five nights a week,
And on the other two, liked a good revel.
Ten months after the birth of baby Ron,
She took up with a plumber, and was gone.
She left a most uncommon, mismatched pair:
One mind unshaped and one mind mathematical.
I do not mean to say no love was there,
But I find hearts and numbers antithetical.
Ron, then, was taught that math was in the air:
Life, a problem, all things geometrical,
That man should learn to search for and revere
Pattern and shape in all he sees and hears.
Some thirty years of living found our hero,
Small-town accountant, sadly single still,
The beau of frozen meals and Oreos,
Master of solitude, of time to kill,
Of beer and pornographic videos,
Of gigantic 900-number bills.
Life without air, without imagination!
Ron needed a nice girl, or inspiration.
Then, with that twist of which Fate is so fond,
When looking for the one, Ron found the other.
While chatting with a "buxom, blu-eyed blond,"
He typed, "u cyber?" "yea," typed KnKyMuThEr.
When BLIP! A pop-up! Poetry.com
Ron clicked one window, minimized another.
Which? Well, he ditched the "blond;" yes, be surprised.
(I cannot say it was or wasn't wise.)
The site lured Ron with promises of fame,
With thoughts of his work, published, on a shelf;
He could be good enough to have him name
Set next to Pope, or Will Shakespeare himself.
Milton was mortal man; Ron was the same,
His mind a store of literary wealth.
The apple swelled with sweet, seductive juice.
Why not set his poetic prowess loose?
Ron studied poems for the next few days,
Read them at breakfast, read them in the car,
Read Shakespeare's sonnets, read most of his plays,
(Read all of Hamlet in a dim sports bar.)
He marked the syllables in every phrase,
By every unstressed foot he placed a star.
Then, while perusing Dryden in the bath,
Ron Truman gasped and said, "Why, this is math!"
"Why, verse is just a series of short sums,
Meter the formula, and verse the answer!
Math is as vital to the birth of poems
As science is to find a cure for cancer!
Those who can't live by writing must be bums!"
And since he fancied himself a romancer,
Ron got a towel, dried his buttocks on it,
Sat on the toilet lid, and wrote a sonnet:
To Arabella Johnson
O soft, sweet nymph of third year Spanish class,
Thy long black locks looked like black liquorice.
No thing in all this world, Earth, could surpass
Thy face, and for thy loving looks I fished!
O, fished, but never caught! Cruel Arabella!
Vain thoughts of thee possessed me night and day;
I prayed for thee when thou hadst salmonella,
But prayed still more that thou wouldst look my way.
Fair fairy, it was never meant to be,
But these long years have failed to douse the flame;
Thy image yet gives light and joy to me,
And I blush not at night to cry thy name.
I still may pull the yearbook from the shelf,
And use thy photograph, and please myself.
The last line written, Ron put down his pen,
Reread the piece, and smiled in satisfaction.
He thought it very clever at the end;
(He left out when the poor girl was in traction,
But then, one couldn't fit everything in.)
He and his muse had had a fine transaction!
And, eager to produce another text,
He took the part of Ron, Lord Truman next:
IN MEMORIAM: Fuzzwort
O Hamster Lord, immortal Fur,
Whom pets well-loved, and owners meek
Thy mercy and thy wood chips seek,
What trials you would have us endure!
My Fuzzwort, whom I loved so dear,
I found him warmtheless in his bed,
No more to squeak, no more to shed,
And now my life is dreadful drear.
O Fuzzwort, little hamster brown,
Whose softness held my heart in awe,
Now Fuzzwort dead in tooth and claw,
Thou, Hamster-Maker, struck him down.
Cold grief I feel, cannot forget
My Fuzzwort's ears, his coat's sleek strands,
For out of darkness came the hands
That reach through cage bars, slaying pets.
"What brilliant stuff!" Ron said, dripping with glee
(And water, but he soon took care of that.)
He dried, he dressed, he went to his PC,
And, trembling in his genius, there he sat,
Submitted both the works (there was no fee!)
To Poetry.com right off the bat.
He bit his knuckles, squirmed, and laughed out loud —
He'd done his crush, his dad, and hamster proud!
Then, four weeks later, what should Ron receive
But two bright, glowing letters from the site?!
They'd be so pleased to publish, with his leave,
Ron's poems in their book: The Dark of Night.
His work taught all of mankind how to grieve,
Taught how to keep on living through love's might.
And Ron (who thought this gesture very nice)
Could buy The Dark of Night at discount price.
Ron Truman bought not one, but twenty-four,
At only thirty-seven bucks a copy.
(Though he was friendless, his father no more,
His online amours always rather choppy.)
And though his life wore on much as before,
His food pre-cooked, his small apartment sloppy,
He thought himself, as he gaped at the page,
The greatest living poet of his age.
Where is the harm in that? you might well ask.
For if Ron was a fool, he never knew.
What hurt if online judges shame their task?
They are no looming threat to poets true.
But I say, when Ron in his blindness basks,
His is the loss, in joy, and money, too —
Such heaping sums, without a penny more
Would buy a very self-respecting whore!