Tag Archives: guns

“Portrait of a Mass Murderer”

A narrative exploration of a Western epidemic. [A rhyming sestina in iambic pentameter–by Paul Burgess]

Of boredom Janie feared she soon would die.
She needed something dangerous to try.
She’d taken all the pills a girl could take
While making all the love a girl could make
And now desired another high to give
Her faith that it was best for her to live.

Internal voices said, “Who wants to live
When life’s no more than efforts not to die?”
Beliefs and doctrines never seemed to give
The high she sought, no matter what she’d try.
Relationships and friends she tried to make,
It seemed, would rarely give but often take.

“Perhaps the time has come for me to take.
“Might ‘taking’ best define the phrase ‘to live’?”
Preparing for the move she planned to make,
She grabbed then shook and rolled a plastic die.
“Though six is high for my beginning try,
I said I’d take the choice the die would give.”

“Is there a charity you’d like to give…”
She cut the cashier off and said she’d take
A sack of fifties and then, “Don’t you try
To play the hero, Gramps. In films they live,
But, off the screen, they often tend to die.”
Then Janie thought about the news she’d make.

Responding to the gruesome threats she’d make,
A shopper cried, “There’s nothing I won’t give,
But please, this isn’t how I want to die.
I have a yacht and car I’ll let you take
If only you’ll allow me now to live.”
Her only words were, “It’s no use to try.”

A theft was not what she was there to try.
It mattered little how much cash she’d make.
While six would die, the others she’d let live.
She said she’d take the choice the die would give.
With ev’ry person’s precious life she’d take,
A part of her humanity would die.

She’d murdered people just to watch them die
Because she’d wanted something new to try.
She’d thought it might be easier to take,
More fun destroying what she couldn’t make,
Than it had ever been for her to give.
She’d thought by killing others that she’d live.


“Little Red Riding Hood” a 6th Clerihew-Inspired Quatrain By Paul Burgess

“Little Red Riding Hood”
Little Red, to do her granny good,
Went riding through a gangsta’s hood.
Suspecting that Wolf had laid a trap,
She grabbed her gun to bust a cap.

“Johnny and His Love”–a Traditional Ballad by Paul Burgess

“Johnny and His Love”—a Traditional Ballad by Paul Burgess [I think the ballad would work nicely with the music of Fairport Convention’s rendition of “Mattie Groves” https://search.yahoo.com/search?p=fairport+convention+mattie+groves&ei=UTF-8&fr=moz2-ytff-msgr

“It’s time to carry out our plan.
It’s time to run away.
We’ll meet behind the rotting barn,”
Is what Johnny had to say.

As he helped his Ma to milk the cow,
His face would never show
That he planned no more to work the farm
‘cuz away with his love he’d go.

Before his Ma retired to sleep,
He gently kissed her head.
The roar of snores was Johnny’s cue—
He grabbed his bag and fled.

No tears escaped from Johnny’s eyes
When he left behind his nest.
He only thought of how it’d feel
To stroke his lover’s breast.

In the moon, her eyes like pyrite shined
And overwhelmed him with bliss.
Behind the barn he touched her cheeks
Then began her lips to kiss.

He lost his fight with the burning urge
To touch her nether lips
And was stunned by what his fingers found
Between his lover’s hips.

Meanwhile, Ma discovered Johnny gone
And loaded up her gun
Then whispered to herself, “Lover girl
Has seen her final sun.”

As Ma approached the rotting barn,
Prepared to blow away
The girl who’d stolen Johnny’s heart,
She heard her Johnny say,

“If this had been revealed to me,
I’d not have made this plan.
For never once did I intend
To love another man.”

His love replied, “You promised me
That whatever came to pass…”
But Johnny cut her off and said,
“I thought you were a lass.”

Ma dropped her gun and confronted them,
Her eyes aglow with glee,
And addressed these words to her only son,
“That’s your prize for leaving me.”

Wholesome Verse for the Little Children [“Little Willie” and “Brats” Poems] (Installment 1)

Before sharing my contributions to the venerable “Little Willie” and “Brats” traditions, I want to provide a brief history of the forms from William Baer’s Writing Metrical Poetry:

In 1899, the British author Harry Graham, under the pseudonym Col. D. Streamer, published a little book entitled Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes….As his tiles promised, the poems…were ruthless little black-humor poems, which often included violence or death, often at the expense of children. Graham’s fiendish poems, which clearly poked fun at both British reserve and human insensibility, delighted the British public…This little poem [“Tender-Heartedness,” included below] spawned countless imitations, and (like the limerick) the numbers of Little Willie poems wax and wane over the years…the poems, always composed of two tetrameter couplets, begin with “Little Willie” or just “Willie.” [188-89]


Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,

Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes;

Now, although the room grows chilly,

I haven’t the heart to poke poor Billy.


An anonymous example:

Little Willie full of hell

Pushed his sister in the well

Said his mother drawing water

“It’s so hard to raise a daughter.


Describing “brats” poems, Baer notes that “the first line of these couplet poems (usually composed in quatrains) generally contains the name of the bratty child who, with the next three lines, faces the music” (189).

Baer provides the following example from X.J. Kennedy:

Stupid little Lucy Wankett

Washed her automatic blanket

while the thing was still plugged in.

Notify her next of kin.

I take credit for being the sick bastard behind the rest of the “Little Willie” and “Brats” Poems posted here. To make iambic tetrameter flow more smoothly, I have often changed “Willie” to “Will.”

[Little Willie] “Playing with Father’s Gun”

Willie showed his siblings Father’s gun.

“Oh, Russian Roulette sounds like fun!”

Exclaimed his sister Mary Lynn.

Will said, “You first. I hope you win.”

[Little Willie] “An Apple for Teacher”

An apple Will gave Missus Cox
While smiling like a hungry fox.
As teacher swallowed her first bite,
Will quipped, “I hope you’ve seen Snow White!”

[Little Willie] “Five, six/Pick up Sticks”

Will thought he’d grabbed a slimy stick
Until he felt a painful prick.
For Will had made the big mistake
Of picking up a rattlesnake.

[Little Willie] “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider”

Willie once thought it’d be a hoot
To hide a spider in Dad’s boot.
Dad’s body’s been of little use
Since meeting Willie’s brown recluse.

[Little Willie] “Who?”

For Will it was a hoot and howl
To murder sis then, like an owl,
Respond by saying only, “Who?”
When asked by Mom, “Where’s Mary Lou?”

[Little Willie] “Playing with Rubber Bands”

Will thought no game to be as grand
As pulling taut a rubber band.
‘Til back at him a band did fly
And left him with a useless eye.

[Brats] Jake’s Snake

One day to school was brought by Jake
A very large constrictor snake.
He found himself in quite a squeeze
With Boa Bob around his knees.

[Brats] Brett […whose malicious mother’s words sound mild compared to the things I have heard some of my students say about their children…]

Incontinent was little Brett.
His mother said, when quite upset,
“To your bed, I’ll tie you down.
Keep on wetting, and you’ll drown.”