Next Line, Please

An Ample Meal

By David Lehman | December 18, 2018
Flickr/Jen Gallardo
Flickr/Jen Gallardo

What would happen, I asked last week, if after breaking down our names into the anagrams they contain, we then recombined those words into a poem? Pamela Joyce S turned the prompt into the joy of a “Sonnet on Brewing Love,” which exhibits an “ample meal,” the “leam of a lamp,” “a map,” a “male plea,” “Ma and Pa,” “a pal,” “a man,” and a “leap,” among other words derived from her first name:

After an ample meal of hearts of palm,
sweet pea puree, and pale vanilla ale,
his lap danced. Her lap sang souchong,
steaming beneath the leam of a lamp.
Aiming to amp up the fire, he read her tea
leaves like a map, foreseeing them steeped
in desire under the elm, or maybe deep in
maple sap. Heeding his male plea and hearing
the peal of distant bells across the lea, she thought
oh, dear me, la de da, what would Ma and Pa think?
He was not wise as the Dalai Lama,
more lame like an ape on the lam,
but he could be a pal and he was a man,
so she took the leap and said I am yours to keep.

Quoting line three—“his lap danced. Her lap sang souchong”—I said that “in chess shorthand, such a move would earn you an exclamation point of praise. I’ll double it!” Emily Winakur said she “agrees with everyone else’s laudatory comments but is glad no one has yet commented on the hilarious contrast between the Dalai Lama and the ape on the lam in the final stanza, so I can give you an original compliment!”

Back from a leave, Michael C. Rush contributed “Liar,” a poem of rich music and wonderful phrasing:

came churlish from the church,
cashier of mulch and mace

the lush accrues his scarce slim smile
as each rich slum mule
clears his scale of scum,
cues music of relics and rice,
charms of chile and ice

hurl him, such a sham, over the arch
into the chasm,
a sum of muscle and lice,
of lucre and cash

his crimes and cries
smirch the user, the usher, and the heir

his scam chars, cures claims

Donald LaBranche singled out “the lush accrues his scarce slim smile,” while Patricia Wallace highlighted “hurl him, such a sham, over the arch,” adding that “Gerard Manley Hopkins is happily listening.”

Hopkins, with his insistent alliteration, may also be discerned in the title and last line of Eric Fretz’s “I Wear the Ferric Fez”:

The words my names combined make free
when recombined, hear me recite
them, I am a crier.
Weave a circle round me thrice,
for they produce this way a fire,
and from another angle, ice.
So make that circle thirteen feet,
I wear the ferric fez,
I’m fit to tie my rite, and then retire,
to the height of a tree,
the depth of a reef.

If it is true, erect it on a fiercer frieze.

“I’m fit to tie my rite, and then retire” is a perfect example of iambic pentameter.

The blend of English and Spanish in Eduardo Ramos Ruiz’s “Ode to Eduardo” produces impressive effects:

Dear Ed,
A redo of brand is due:
Dread not the red eye of critics
Who ur el nombre de pluma.
The Eddo era is at an end.

Los tiempos son duros—
Do bid ado to Edward and Edwardo.
In due time the road will bloom,
For Dude from dud shall reign.
Dare to read and write anew.

The adored era de Lalo—
Hear without an ear or resonant eye.
Leave the rod of playthings,
Heave the oar, and seek the inborn ore.
The subconscious rode shall lead.

Among the lines I like the most are “Dread not the red eye of critics” and “For Dude from dud shall reign.”

The fluidity and imagery (“earth’s brown vest / of winter grass”) of Steve Bellin-Oka’s “Leaving Portales, NM, December 2018” delighted me:

Discarded nest in a bare oak branch. Timed
bird scare at dusk, crows in a V-line
off the roof of the Theatre Building. The sky’s net
of cloud slings them back. A church bell
rings on Avenue D. When I see something
for the last time—earth’s brown vest
of winter grass, tens of stray cats huddled
in the closed vet’s parking lot—I hardly
notice anymore. Even this azure blaze
of sunset. We’ll burn each bill paid online
in the firepit, bin of ash and sparks. May
some reach us where we’re going, fall
into our ghost-white hands like invitations
forwarded for events already weeks past.

Steve volunteered that he “cheated in the third to last [line],” inasmuch as “no word in that line can be found in my names.” To which I responded, ambiguously enough, that “cheat” is an anagram for “teach.”

Charise Hoge took a challenging prompt and made it more demanding in “Play It By Ear.” Her poem is in the form of a ghazal, which consists of two-line stanzas that terminate in the same word. The repeated word is usually the poet’s name; “rise” serves here. The final couplet has the added virtue of acquainting us with an alternative term for the musical instrument known more commonly as the “nocturnal”: “The care of oddities, like a nocturlabe, is how I ace what the hare in the moon / does chase—the sea and strands of seaweed mussing my hair before I’ll rise”

Similarly eager to add stricture to stricture, byron made an untitled acrostic using only anagrams derived from “Lord Byron.”

By rod or by orb,
O Lord,
Nor dry nor lob nor drool.

Many entries contained lines so striking that I can’t resist quoting them.

—From Shari Ayers’s “Liminal Deities”: “Trickster—that shapeshifting Mata Hari / drifting in his ill-fitting sari to the Western Front.”
—From Keith Barrett’s “Heir to the Hatter”: “A rite of passage or just a wrong massage, / Message received, loud unclear.”
—From Millicent Caliban’s “Condemned to Life”: “Many lives have I lived: some ill and some nice, / some licit, some not, sometimes lice without limit.”
—From Emily Winakur: “your mother’s mink, / the mean shelter / of her wink and nod.”
—From Patricia Wallace: “Art’s a waste. If you ask Lit Crit, / irony laces art’s longevity. Who believes in it? / Not even Patricia. Life’s so short it could be art.”

Next Tuesday is Christmas, and the Tuesday after is New Year’s. Watch this space for surprises to come.

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