Alias Alginate Windnburn


Last night Denise and I drove to Phoenix to attend Caffeine Corridor, a poetry event held the second Friday of the month at the {9} Gallery in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. John Spaulding and Jia Oak Baker were the co-features. Jack Evans, Shawnte Orion and Bill Campana were the co-hosts.

At the open mic, I quoted Ernest Hemingway: “What a writer has to do is write what hasn’t been written before or beat dead men at what they have done.” I then read this verse from one of my favorite poems, “The Garden of Proserpine” by Algernon Swinburne:

Though one were strong as seven,
He too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven,
Nor weep for pains in hell;
Though one were fair as roses,
His beauty clouds and closes;
And well though love reposes,
In the end it is not well.

I then read an excerpt from my pastiche of this poem, starting with this verse, the analogue of Swinburne’s:

Though he be true as taxes
His strength is bound to vanish
To quell with prophylaxis
And Agamemnon banish
To unborn hero’s limbo
Not Scarlett’s Rhettish slim beau
But gone—it’s Tough Stuff, Jimbo,
Don’t fret when you’re unmannish.

(I bowdlerized the verse slightly, changing “Tough Shit” to “Tough Stuff,” having seen a preteen girl in the audience. Perhaps I should not have bothered; subsequent poets dropped F-bombs and other salty language.)

I confess: I am trying to beat a dead man at what he has done. “The Garden of Proserpine” has 112 lines in 14 verses. My pastiche, which has gone by the absurd title “The Compost of Alginate Windburn,” has 128 lines in 16 verses. My attempt is to be at least as metrically precise as Swinburne, and say more, and be more entertaining.
Here’s a link for those who would like to see Swinburne’s poem for comparison:

Here’s my poem.

Near where the earth is queasy
Far from the mad and clouded
We cast a glance uneasy
With debt charge thus unprowed/hid,
And cast aside defenses
In search of truth’s clear lenses
For Allouette’s tense is
All past us: she’s a-shrouded.

We are stunned with tears divisive
And laughter full of weep
When rulers indecisive
Make ethicists to creep
We are browbeat by a rock star
Who scabbards at the cock bar
With tentacles of mock tar
That count us all as sheep.

Pale, beyond and on it
Are maggots fiercely feeding
On rife corruption. Wan, it
‘S a scene of pain and bleeding;
And reapers scythed and sceptered
Ride wolfish bones they’ve kept furred
Accosting some inept turd
Who wans to write a sonnet.

We have not made pavilions
Well stocked with ammunition
And ordnance by the millions
And powdered superstition
Till love, grown mock-pugnacious
With thoughts grown unsagacious
Bids us be full rapacious
With kills in the quadrillions.

We are not sure of value
And zest is not demure
When winning a new pal, you
Must sell and grin and lure;
And lust, grown vaguely cryptic
Ensorcels us in diptych
Then stings our face with styptic
Once shaven shearly sure.

Though he be true as taxes
His strength is bound to vanish
To quell with prophylaxis
And Agamemnon banish
To unborn hero’s limbo
Not Scarlett’s Rhettish slim beau
But gone—it’s Tough Shit, Jimbo,
Don’t fret when you’re unmannish.

Enacted is a mock eclipse
With cardboard and a flashlight
Betokening apocalypse
Red-needled by the dash light
And clutch and brake and revver
With press of pad or lever
Will, with our help, endeavor
To fire the embered ash light.

Predation is pre-dated
By simple cell division,
When reproduction’s sated
Replete with finished fission,
But soon or late they’ll home in
On prey declared a foeman
Becoming Satan’s showman
Whilst sneering with derision.

The rending of a sinew
The rendering of fat
The bald heart-rending menu
Of lean meat for a Sprat
Can incantations stifle
And able-bodied wife’ll
Take aim with bow or rifle
At all but feral cat.

Depends on whom you ask,
In furtive assignation
Bedecked with code and mask,
But wanderlust will fill in
For demoiselle and villain:
A mouth to gather krill in
When nourishing’s the task.

They launch us as a seedling
And soon we grow a sprig
And life’s incessant needling
And reason’s whirligig
Give rise to shoots and branches
And if Hop Sing fair blanches
The Ponderosa ranch is
Not home to cur nor pig.

If only Arch and Jughead
Were here to make their peace
And Betty, nude, her bugbed
Too rasped for lust’s surcease,
The turkey man would carve all
The white meat off and starve ol’
Geronimo, who’d marvel
Whilst signing the release.

And what of the Titanic?
It took a body blow
And fell, hydrodynamic,
To ocean’s floor, laid low.
We never learned that lesson.
Our hubris got a guess in
That flukes occur, so dress in
Your camo: time to go.

And so we’ve gone, repeatedly,
And so we will till dead,
We preen so undefeatedly!
We’ve striven, driven, bred!
But anguish nips our ankles
And peace with honor rankles,
The world puts paid to prank else
It turns to char instead.

The winter’s tale is done now.
The snow has covered all.
We’re freshly out of fun now.
The hallmark lacks a hall.
So if we are degraded
As biomass, and shaded
With taupe since light has faded
Cache out your wherewithal.

And all will be forgotten
As weird ralphcramdenness
As passions misbegotten
That burned in randomness
And cosmic fuzz prevailing
Will still the gnashic wailing
And lose our ships unsailing:
Abducted, ransomless.

Did I beat him? I think the best answer is No and Yes and It Doesn’t Matter. The attempt stretched me as a poet. I’m happy to suggest such an attempt to all my fellow versifiers, including you (yes, you!)…


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