Tag Archives: poems

Paradox

I see a paradox in form and rhyme:
A pattern, regular as night and day,
Will coax a phrase we’d never think to say.
Inspired by verse, we might compare a crime
To something sour—perhaps a slice of lime.
This act of making words a thing of play
Restores the color to what’s going gray
And lifts the spells of blindness cast by Time.
Convention, seeming like a chain with locks,
Releases brilliance that we never sought
By forcing us to free a fettered thought.
In form and rhyme, I see a paradox.

“War”

I
In Love and War, what’s foul is labeled “fair”
(At least that’s what a lot of people claim).
For love of Fame to cause a war’s not rare—
Desire can turn to wild what once was tame,
And winners often are the bold who dare
To play as though contestants in the game
Obeyed, at most, a single ruthless rule:
That mercy is the virtue of a fool.

The present episode will illustrate
How flames of envy’s fiercely raging fire
Can burn a friendship ‘til what’s left is hate.
To save myself from readers’ anxious ire,
I’ll start my tale and end your restless wait
To hear my song of anger and attire:
I’ll tell how dearest friends were turned to foes
When Fate arrayed the two in matching clothes.

II
Once Missy Priss and Kimberley McQueen—
The heroines who occupy this episode—
Were friends as close as Earth had ever seen
(Or poet praised in eulogizing ode).
But, as a tower never known to lean
One day might crack and suddenly implode,
Some friendships crash as quickly to the ground
As lightning seen ahead of thunder’s sound.

The cause that brought their lovely friendship down
And made eternal rivals of the pair
Was nothing other than a gaudy gown
The ladies both were seen one day to wear.
The Queen of Fashion’s chrome and golden crown
Was not an ornament they’d gladly share.
The choice of dress appeared to each to say,
“A fearsome fashion war is underway.”

Once Missy saw the latest breaking news—
Which showed McQueen enjoying drinks and lunch
While wearing Missy’s style of gown and shoes—
She quickly ate her bowl of Cocoa Crunch,
Then rushed to find McQueen at Eats and Brews
(To give her face a bruising power punch).
On reaching Kimmy, Priss did what she’d planned—
She gave her face a not-so-helpful hand.

Then, Missy shrieked, “How dare you steal my style
And strut around as though it were your own!
That masterpiece, designed by Leonard Lyle,
Was meant to beautify my form alone.
And now the world will think that, all the while,
I’ve tried to be your slavish fashion clone.”
The bruised and bloodied Kimberly McQueen
Replied that Missy’s skin was turning green

(Which, readers know, is often Envy’s shade).
Then Kimmy said, “It’d be a sorry waste
To only dress a plain but haughty maid
In clothing suited more to royal taste.
If gowns could choose, they certainly would trade
A girl ignored for one who’s wildly chased.
If gowns could talk, they’d say, “I don’t delight
In clothing bottoms full of cellulite.”

Offended, Missy gave her gut a kick
(Each moment seemed to make her rage increase),
Yet, Kimmy’s hands delivered not a lick,
[But not because she sought to keep the peace—
She fought with words and never stone or stick
And favored most the Nasty Press Release
Of any lethal weapon one could choose
Because it helps to shape the public’s views].

III
The rage of Ajax Telamon denied
His prize of armor great Achilles wore—
The rage which drove the man to suicide
And then to Hades’ life-forsaken shore—
Would match the ladies’ rage if multiplied
Perhaps a hundred thousand times or more.
…And feeding anger better left unfed
Were words the House’s chatty servants* said.

*The Press [servants in the House of Fame]

The servants formed a pair of warring camps
(A group on Kim’s and one on Missy’s side).
The words they wrote and spoke became the lamps
That served the voting public as a guide
To granting Popular Approval Stamps
To Missy or the foe with whom she vied.
Debates about who best had worn the gown
Incited fights on streets in ev’ry town.

And soon the people also would debate
About* whether Missy should forgive
Or whether Kimmy’s acts had earned her hate.
Some thought it best to make one’s heart a sieve
(Which filters dross to reach a purer state*),
But others wondered how McQueen could live
And shouted, “Kim McQueen deserves the chair
For wearing what she had no right to wear.”

*meter trumps grammatical correctness

*What passes through the sieve,–and not the sieve, itself—reaches a purer state

“McQueen’s among the worst who have betrayed.
Aeneas leaving Dido’s sandy shore
And Brutus piercing Ceasar with his blade
Are slight compared to Kimmy’s act of war.”
To bloody Mars the warring parties prayed.
They crossed their hearts devoutly and then swore:
“By God and everything in which I trust,
I know my cause to be the one that’s just.”

Behind computer screens, each raging horde
Prepared to give the foes their just desserts.
With barbs they borrowed from a comment board
And “I Adore McQueen” or “Missy” shirts,
They armed themselves before they wildly warred
And caused the blood to flow in crimson spurts.
[All thought that Kim and Missy’s bitter feud
Would only end if civil war ensued.]

IV
…To tell of tears and blood the people shed
Surpasses any mortal poet’s skill.
To say that armies drowned in seas of red
Or piles of corpses made a human hill
(Or any metaphor a poet’s said)
Would not deserve the name of “overkill.”
Instead of seeking heights I can’t attain,
I’ll leave the rest to ev’ry reader’s brain.

I’ll only tell you what the war achieved:
As often happens when two armies strive
To win the crown for causes much believed,
The heroic leaders kept themselves alive
While soldiers’ friends and kin were much bereaved
That loving husband John did not survive.
And, once the course of war was fully run,
The parties both exclaimed, “Hurray, we’ve won!”

“Shakespeare in the Underworld” [Complete: Parts I-III]

Selections from The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

A chat with England’s bard will make it clear
that death for stars is still a thing to dread.
I trust you’ll recognize this person here
[Unless you’ve got no brain inside your head].
That’s William Shakespeare–Britain’s treasured dear,
A man among the greatest of the dead.
Now have a conversation with the Bard
To see that death’s a fate that’s always hard.


Before the Bard could say a single word,
He was approached by Richard Number Three
(A king who’s also known as “Rick the Third”).
The Bard inquired, “What dost thou want of me?”
The Third replied, “Thou sland’ring boorish bird,
Thy song hath brought me lasting infamy.
Thy play–a dreadful toy, a trivial thing–
Hath made me seem the worst of any king.

I thank thee–balding, bitter, whoreson, hack–
For making sure that all posterity
Would think me evil with a crooked back.”
Said Will, “To thee, I gave eternity.
A famous name–which many hate to lack–
I gave thee as an act of charity.
Without my widely-read and studied play,
How many would recall your name today?”

Richard glared and turned to walk away.
Then, William took a seat and breathed a sigh
And said these weary words I’ll now relay:
“A second death I’d volunteer to die.
I deeply loathe this place of gloomy gray,
And passage out of here I’d gladly buy.
Although my body long ago decayed,
It seems my spirit’s not allowed to fade.”

I never rest. Each moment seems to bring
Complaints from ev’ry lady and her lord,
From ev’ry princess, baron, queen, and king
Whose fame on page and stage has ever soared—
Instead of being some forgotten thing
That future ages knew not and ignored.
If I had known they’d never let me be,
I never would’ve written history.”

“Thou’ hast not come, I hope, with foul design…
In other words, to ask about my work:
‘The plays and poems–are they truly thine?
Above the questions never cease to lurk.’
Some claim that visions from a source divine
Reveal the Bard was Russian or a Turk,
While others say he served our Holy Lord
Or was a pirate living by the sword.”

“Another says, ‘Well, ev’rybody knows–
As royal flower comes from royal bud–
No lowly peasant ever could compose
Those works that hint at none but noble blood.
Our culture’s greatest poetry and prose
Was fathered only by a noble stud.
He who composed those lines we read today
Was never making gloves to earn his pay.’

‘Perhaps the credit Will so long has taken
Belongs to Earl of Oxford, Ed de Vere—
If not a king, a queen, or Francis Bacon.’
Said Will, “For love of peace, I’ll shake no spear
At silly theories that they’re fond of makin’,
But lies have harmed old Ed and Frank, I fear—
They both believe they wrote A Winter’s Tale,*
And their debate has grown a little stale.”

*De Vere, believed by some conspiracy theorists to have been “Shakespeare,” died several years before the composition of A Winter’s Tale.

“I’d also keep the scholars out of here:
[‘If Bottom turned by magic to an ass
Is, like I think, a bawdy pun on “rear,”
I’ll teach my Early English Drama class
That Will was saying slyly, “I am queer”
And scenes in drag express his inner lass.’]
[‘Does Lear suggest it’s choice or iron fate
That makes a person bi, or gay, or straight?’]

“One critic claims I had a proto-commie’s voice,
While others say that freer enterprise
Was doubtlessly my economic choice.
He thinks I served the state with pretty lies,
She says rebelling made my heart rejoice.
They make me what they love or most despise…
The real “me” critics think they can define
Is not contained in any written line. “

“Another blow from fickle, frightful fate
Are bards I often am assaulted by.
How deep’s the well of bitter rivals’ hate!
I’d thought with death that jealousy would die,
But writers foul, along with writers great,
Despise that I’m one critics deify.
Although the fault is surely none of mine,
It irks them that my name’s become divine.”

Although there’s truth in much of what he said,
It seemed he wanted only to complain.
His whiny ways began to hurt my head.
As much as this confession causes pain,
I admit that, from England’s bard, I fled
As people flee from falling acid rain .
I went in search of other famous ghosts
And hoped they’d serve as better spirit-hosts.

“Shakespeare in the Underworld”

[Part I: a selection from The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess]

“A chat with England’s bard will make it clear
that death for stars is still a thing to dread.
I trust you’ll recognize this person here
[Unless you’ve got no brain inside your head].
That’s William Shakespeare–Britain’s treasured dear,
A man among the greatest of the dead.
Now have a conversation with the Bard
To see that death’s a fate that’s always hard.
 

Before the Bard could say a single word,
He was approached by Richard Number Three
(A king who’s better known as “Rick the Third”).
The Bard inquired, “What dost thou want of me?”
The Third replied, “Thou sland’ring boorish bird,
Thy song hath brought me lasting infamy.
Thy play–a dreadful toy, a trivial thing–
Hath made me seem the worst of any king.

I thank thee–balding, bitter, whoreson, hack–
For making sure that all posterity
Would think me evil with a crooked back.”
Said Will, “To thee, I gave eternity
A famous name–which many hate to lack–
I gave thee as an act of charity.
Without my widely-read and studied play,
How many would recall your name today?”

Brave New World

How easy it’s become to cross the sea–
To visit lands with foreign flags unfurled.
The web connects Japan to Sicily,
And knowledge travels quickly ’round the world.
Oh, age of unsurpassed technology!
You’ve made our globe a place where all is swirled.
[When not subjected to our foul abuse,
You’ve served with tools of nearly boundless use.]

…
With modern tech, celebs can swiftly share
Selected priceless moments with a crowd
Of millions of adoring fans who care
A lot about and feel sincerely proud
Of novel ways a star has styled her hair.
The shrines where ancient worshipers once bowed
Have given up their place without regret
To profile pages on the internet.

Celebrities from days of early date,
I wish you lived to see how things are now.
Who knew what hat was worn on Milton’s pate?
Who knew when Francis Bacon waxed his brow?
[Men* lived when news required a longer wait,
but thinking folks must surely wonder how!]
If only Shakespeare had a profile page,
We’d know about his actions off the stage.

*Iambic pentameter and political correctness do not get along.

Imagine! Brilliant Michelangelo
Would post a pic of what he had for lunch.
Adoring fans would be the first to know
If Mikey’s meal was soft or apt to crunch.
I’d like to think a later post would show
His fav’rite types of whiskey, wine, and punch.
A single finger’s touch or mouse’s click
Would lead to Mikey’s latest glamour pic.

Selections from *The New House Fame* by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

“Sympathy for the Famous Devil”

Some critics might, as youngsters call it, “hate”
And argue  that it’s utter vanity
To moan about  a life which seems so great.
Forgive their envy and inanity.
Who wouldn’t curse the cruel and crushing weight
Of famous living’s wild insanity?
We should salute the selfless sacrifice
You make to entertain us at a price.

Selections from The New House of Fame–by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

“Thug Life”

“Thug Life”
I.
7
Some find the place where Lady Fame resides
By seeming to defiantly rebel.
Tattoos that cover all but their insides
Proclaim they’re* demons full of raging Hell—
As do their raps on drugs and homicides
And wicked words they normally misspell.
Although they think their ways to be unique,
Their breed of fish would crowd the largest creek.

* The “they” of “they’re” refers to the those who “defiantly rebel” and not to the “tattoos;” poetic license is my excuse for allowing such an ambiguous phrase to stand. I will rid the poem of ambiguity in later drafts.


I.8
“Some Ingredients in the Thug Life Brew”

Instead of “ma’am,” their given names, or “Miss,”
You’ll call lovely ladies “bitch” and “hoe”
And greet a stranger with quite an angry hiss
Instead of “How’s it going?” or “Hello.”
Your rear, which cronies will so gladly kiss,
Must peak above the pants you’ll wear too low.
Just add a pinch of hard illegal drugs,
Then join the House’s artificial thugs.

Selections from The New House of Fame–By Paul “Whitberg” Burgess