Wednesday, August 20, 2014


What’s in a name?
You would think naming poems would be simple. Not for me.
When I was in high school I thought it was clever
to name my poems like the painter,
James McNeill Whistler, named his paintings-
His “Nocturne in Blue & Gold” led to my
“Symphony in White for Adjectives”,
and “An Arrangement in Adverbs #14”.
I did that until a girl I liked commented,
“That’s stupid”.
I couldn’t disagree.
So I took “Nocturne #37 in Metaphorical Greys”,
tore it up,
and avoided poetry altogether for the next decade.

And yet, I never quite learn.
When I started writing again, my poem
about a panhandler who gets
flattened by a bus on 12th Street was titled 
“Incident at 44th and 6th”.
You probably don’t need a map, the intersection
of 44th and 6th is nowhere near 12th in any city
(math majors got that right away).

There’s my poem about swing dancing under the stars
which concludes with the stanza,
“Then come and sit awhile with me,
under the black-boned maple tree,
under the proud black canopy, of January sky.
Come sit and watch,
as stars fly by,
that velvet January sky,
a swarm of winter fireflies,
not yet entombed in some glass jar”.
I titled this poem about January skies,
“With You and Duke Ellington at Christmas”.

-it took me eight years
to notice that there was a problem.

And yet, I love naming my poems.
Well, some of my poems-
I’ve got a drawer full of great titles for
poems I haven’t actually written yet.

“Reading Charles Bukowski at a
 New Britain Rock Cats Minor League Baseball Game”.
I may not have a poem to go with it-
But damn, I like the title.

I’ve got titles attached to partial-poems; semi-poems...
about-to-be-started-someday poems-
“Who Pissed on the Lilacs?” will be my homage to Walt Whitrman,
if I ever get around to writing it.
“Bad Marmalade, and Other Journeys to the Dark Side of the Fridge”,
may eventually be finished, but I never get more than a stanza in
before I have to break for a snack.

“The Raven Revisited: A Caustic Letter to the Audubon Society”,
actually got a funding grant from PETA,
but they pulled the money when they found out
that on line 37 I described the Raven as
“Nothing more than a fuzzy-balled birdshit factory”.

But sometimes I learn-
there are certain words and phrases to avoid in titles
if you’re going to post your poem on the internet.
For instance- You may have lots of cats,
but don’t name your poem about them
“Pussies Galore”.
A project with an animal rights group taught me
that when posting a poem online
about the evils of pit-fighting roosters,
it’s probably best to avoid the phrase “Cock-Fight”.
Unless, you know, you’re looking for interesting experiences.
 - I’m not judging.

It might seem my attempts at poem-naming
are all destined for disappointment,
But I read recently that “Disappointment “
is just a mis-spelling of “Opportunity”.
(I’m not sure how they make that work,
the words don’t look the same, but never mind).
So in an effort to boost my website stats
right now I’m working on a new poem
that takes advantage of all the lessons I’ve learned.
It’s titled “Pussies Galore at the Cock Fight”.
Oh please! It’s a poem about my cats.
Really- it’s a poem about my cats.
Ok... it’s not about my cats.

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