“Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports.”
[From a recent presidential account of the American Revolution]
Listen, my children, and you will hear
Of the red-eye flight of Paul Revere.
On a humid, hot, and sticky night,
Having shown up two hours before his flight,
He had to get to Gate C9
After spending an hour and a half in line.
He said, “Hardly anyone still alive
Would rather go through this than drive.”
Only when he reached the font of the crowd
Did he learn how many bags were allowed:
“One if by land, two if by sea,
But you’re going by air, so there is a small fee.”
So he paid the fee and checked his bags,
And the baggage clerk affixed the tags.
But before he could be on his way,
He had to pass the TSA,
Who made him take off his belt and shoes
And his tricorn hat before he went through,
But still the metal detector buzzed
And he had to deal with the rent-a-fuzz,
Who said to him, “Now listen here, sport,
Who wears brass buttons to the airport?”
They took him to chamber where
They stripped him to his underwear,
And inch by inch, with latexed hand
Confirmed he had no contraband.
They let him go, in Concourse C
The clock on the wall read 12:03.
To make his flight, he would have to run
Past the Starbucks and the Cinnabon,
And zip right past the Chik-Fil-A
(not that he ate there anyway),
Past the Dairy Queen, the Burger King,
The Buffalo with Wild Wings,
The newsstand and the duty-free,
The shoeshine and the Mickey D’s
The T.G.I. Friday’s, the P.F. Chang,
The V.I.P. Club, the Sturm & Drang’s
The Taco Bell, the Einstein Brothers,
The Jamba Juice…and many others.
And when he reached his gate at last
And handed over his boarding pass
His breath was short; his shirt was wet,
And all his body soaked in sweat;
His coat was torn, his cravat askew,
And the sole was flopping off one shoe.
A woman standing at the gate
Explained, “You’re nearly an hour late.”
“So I missed my flight?” he asked. “What? No—
We just started boarding the first five rows.”
So he waited in line, and he shuffled his feet
And finally boarded, and took his seat
In front of a boy with spiked blond hair
Who kicked the seat all the way to O’Hare.
The Poetry Crisis Line tries to stay out of politics, but sometimes politicians won’t stay out of poetry. So after Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, suggested corrections to “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus (aka, the “Statue of Liberty Poem”), we asked Mr. Cuccinelli if there were any other classic poems he’d like to rewrite. He gave us the following:
Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet
and who will not become a public charge.
William Carlos Williams†
I have eaten
that were in
they coud not
they were lazy
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Water, water everywhere
But not a drop to drink
Unless you can afford to pay
For access to the sink
Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forest of the night,
If you come here to the States,
You’d better sell some Frosted Flakes.
*Mr Cuccinelli’s suggested revision.
†We made the rest of these up.
A Guillotine has to stay hungry
to keep her competitive edge—
she likes to stay sharp, like she’s stringing a harp
when trimming a neck or a hedge.
She breakfasts on kings and on princes
and lunches on bishops and earls
and, finally, dines on whatever she finds—
like dissidents or little girls.
The Guillotine likes to stay hungry;
she knows all the right strings to pull—
she gobbles up everyone there in the Square
but never appears to be full.
She comes to the party invited
but stays when the other guests go,
and if you request that she help with the mess
she’ll cut you off with a sharp no.
The Guillotine’s constantly hungry;
she can’t seem to master the urge.
She’s much too impatient to learn moderation;
it’s always a binge—and a purge.
She breakfasts on royals and nobles
and lunches on bishops and priests
and finally dines on whoever opines
that maybe it’s time she should cease.
Iambic pentameter revolutionized English poetry. But what if, instead of importing an Italian verse form, Shakespeare had instead looked to the next island to the west?