Saturday, December 31, 2016

a poem and a story

by horace p sternwall

illustrations by roy dismas

ars poetica

poetry is hard to write
and if you write some every night
most of it is hopeless glop
into the garbage to be dropped

poets who live for all time
only write one or two lines
that anyone really remembers
the rest are only ash and embers

their names are known, but ninety-nine
percent of their well-gotten rhymes
are no more read than the reports
of arizona traffic courts

no other human occupation
produces such a tiny ration
of success to total nothingness
with no excuses to profess

so, poet, persevere
the world will shed no tear
you must weep for your own self
as you moulder on the shelf

your failure to communicate
is only humans’ common fate
like all you take your lumps
as darkness triumphs

uncle william

my uncle william took a nap every afternoon.

it was what he did.

one day he declared he was not going to take his nap.

why aren’t you going to take your nap, william? asked aunt flora.

because the world is going to end at six o’clock, william declared.

word quickly spread around town that uncle william had predicted that the world would end at six o’clock.

but the world did not end, at six o’clock, or at all.

and uncle william, who had previously been a citizen regarded with some respect, became a laughingstock.

he became a recluse, and began reading the bible.

and not only the bible, but the quran, the torah, the mahabharata, the sayings of confucius and lao tzu, the essays of ralph waldo emerson and thomas carlyle, and other specimens of human wisdom.

he passed many years in this manner, rarely leaving the house.

he distilled his readings and meditations into a new synthesis, and wished to attract disciples , but in this he was not successful.

he grew old, and lay at death’s door.

he asked aunt flora to summon his disciples, to hear his last words.

but, william, flora retorted, you don’t have any disciples.

surely you can find somebody, william pleaded.

with a sigh, aunt flora went out into the street and tried to interest some passers by in hearing william’s last words.

she finally found a couple of hoboes who were willing to hear william out, in exchange for a couple of cups of coffee and a couple of slices of flora’s excellent blueberry pie.

well, william, flora told him, these gentleman are here for what you have to say, so let’s hear it.

people are bad, william said, they should be good.

and he died.

he was quickly forgotten, even by the people in the small town in which he had spent his entire life.