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Uncle Jim

I got a chuckle from Peter Meinke's poem "Uncle Jim" that was featured today on The Writer's Almanac.  I had a (great) Uncle Jim who was an interesting character...but not like this one.

What the children remember about Uncle Jim
is that on the train to Reno to get divorced
so he could marry again
he met another woman and woke up in California.
It took him seven years to untangle that dream
but a man who could sing like Uncle Jim
was bound to get in scrapes now and then:
he expected it and we expected it.
Mother said, It's because he was the middle child,
and Father said, Yeah, where there's trouble
Jim's in the middle.
When he lost his voice he lost all of it
to the surgeon's knife and refused the voice box
they wanted to insert. In fact he refused
almost everything. Look, they said,
it's up to you. How many years
do you want to live? and Uncle Jim
held up one finger.
The middle one.

"Uncle Jim" by Peter Meinke, from Liquid Paper: New and Selected Poems. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991. Reprinted without permission. (buy now)


Autobiography of the Cab Driver...

I liked this poem by Rebecca McClanahan as featured in Tuesday's The Writer's Almanac.

Autobiography of the Cab Driver Who Picked Me Up At a Phoenix Hotel to Catch a Four A.M. Flight and Began to Speak in (Almost) Rhyming Couplets

I got two problems. One,
I never see the sun
and two, if I did,
I couldn't take it, never could.
Now, my sister? Out one day
and brown the next. That's the way
my father was. We never
took vacations but he used to steer
on Sundays with one arm
out the window. Get dark as a black man.
Something in his blood, I guess.
Once I bought me a mess
of tanning cream, but something
kept me from using it.
He's been dead a whole
year. They say there's not a soul
on the streets this hour,
but the souls are just now rousing.
Yes Ma'am, when I see daylight I slide
into my coffin and close the lid.
Cooler that way. They say if you can survive
a summer in this heat, you're a native.
My brother's child? She claims to be one,
but I tell her she's got Made in Japan
stamped all over her keister.
Hey lady, you still on Eastern
time? You can have it. Yesterday
the TV reporter in Cincinnati
was three feet in snow. I phoned
my old drinking buddy back home
to rub it in. Lied and said I was out
today without a shirt. Barefoot.
He said you can keep those hundred
degrees. I said you don't have to shovel
a heat wave. Young lady, you okay?
Looks like you're fading. The longest day
I ever lived was the night
I left for Vietnam. What a sight,
would you look at that? Damn
jackhammers at three a.m.
They sure like to play in the dirt here.
Yes Ma'am. It's the same everywhere.
The shortest distance between
two points is always under construction.


Things You Didn't Put On Your Resumé

From the December 5, 2006, installment of The Writer's Almanac, a poem of the same title by Joyce Sutphen:

Things You Didn't Put On Your Resumé How often you got up in the middle of the night when one of your children had a bad dream, and sometimes you woke because you thought you heard a cry but they were all sleeping, so you stood in the moonlight just listening to their breathing, and you didn't mention that you were an expert at putting toothpaste on tiny toothbrushes and bending down to wiggle the toothbrush ten times on each tooth while you sang the words to songs from Annie, and who would suspect that you know the fingerings to the songs in the first four books of the Suzuki Violin Method and that you can do the voices of Pooh and Piglet especially well, though your absolute favorite thing to read out loud is Bedtime for Frances and that you picked up your way of reading it from Glynnis Johns, and it is, now that you think of it, rather impressive that you read all of Narnia and all of the Ring Trilogy (and others too many to mention here) to them before they went to bed and on way out to Yellowstone, which is another thing you don't put on the resumé: how you took them to the ocean and the mountains and brought them safely home.



Via the November 13, 2006, episode of The Writer's Almanac, a poem of the same title by Ron Koertge in Fever:

Kryptonite Lois liked to see the bullets bounce off Superman's chest, and of course she was proud when he leaned into a locomotive and saved the crippled orphan who had fallen on the tracks. Yet on those long nights when he was readjusting longitude or destroying a meteor headed right for some nun, Lois considered carrying just a smidgen of kryptonite in her purse or at least making a tincture to dab behind her ears. She pictured his knees giving way, the color draining from his cheeks. He'd lie on the couch like a guy with the flu, too weak to paint the front porch or take out the garbage. She could peek down his tights or draw on his cheek with a ball point. She might even muss his hair and slap him around. "Hey, what'd I do?" he'd croak just like a regular boyfriend. At last.


Cinderella's Diary

Via The Writer's Almanac, from Fever by Ron Koertge:

Cinderella's Diary I miss my stepmother. What a thing to say but it's true. The prince is so boring: four hours to dress and then the cheering throngs. Again. The page who holds the door is cute enough to eat. Where is he once Mr. Charming kisses my forehead goodnight? Every morning I gaze out a casement window at the hunters, dark men with blood on their boots who joke and mount, their black trousers straining, rough beards, callused hands, selfish, abrupt ... Oh, dear diary-I am lost in ever after: Those insufferable birds, someone in every room with a lute, the queen calling me to look at another painting of her son, this time holding the transparent slipper I wish I'd never seen.


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