M is for the many times you've made me
O is for the other times you're tried
T is for the tourist cabin weekends
H is for the hell you raised inside
E is for the everlasting passion.
R is for the 'reck you've made of me.
Put them all together, they spell "Mother"
And that is what you made of me.
--Anonymous (although one website credits "Dick Greenhouse" and Wallis McClain remembers Oscar Brand singing a variant of it; they all parody a sentimental song about aging mom)

Oh, give me a home, where the beer bottles foam,
Where with blondes and brunettes I can play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
'Cause my wife is out working all day.

by Anonymous Works
Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
System manuals piled high and wasted paper on the floor,
Longing for the warmth of bed sheets, still I sat there doing spreadsheets.
Having reached the bottom line I took a floppy from the drawer,
I then invoked the SAVE command and waited for the disk to store,
Only this and nothing more.

Deep into the monitor peering, long I sat there wond'ring, fearing,
Doubting, while the disk kept churning, turning yet to churn some more.
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token.
"Save!" I said, "You cursed mother! Save my data from before!"
One thing did the phosphors answer, only this and nothing more,
Just, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

Was this some occult illusion, some maniacal intrusion?
These were choices undesired, ones I'd never faced before.
Carefully I weighed the choices as the disk made impish noises.
The cursor flashed, insistent, waiting, baiting me to type some more.
Clearly I must press a key, choosing one and nothing more,
From "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

With fingers pale and trembling, slowly toward the keyboard bending,
Longing for a happy ending, hoping all would be restored,
Praying for some guarantee, timidly, I pressed a key.
But on the screen there still persisted words appearing as before.
Ghastly grim they blinked and taunted, haunted, as my patience wore,
Saying "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

I tried to catch the chips off guard, and pressed again, but twice as hard.
I pleaded with the cursed machine: I begged and cried and then I swore.
Now in mighty desperation, trying random combinations,
Still there came the incantation, just as senseless as before.
Cursor blinking, angrily winking, blinking nonsense as before.
Reading, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

There I sat, distraught, exhausted, by my own machine accosted.
Getting up I turned away and paced across the office floor.
And then I saw a dreadful sight: a lightning bolt cut through the night.
A gasp of horror overtook me, shook me to my very core.
The lightning zapped my previous data, lost and gone forevermore.
Not even, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

To this day I do not know the place to which lost data go.
What demonic nether world us wrought where lost data will be stored,
Beyond the reach of mortal souls, beyond the ether, into black holes?
But sure as there's C, Pascal, Lotus, Ashton-Tate and more,
You will be one day be left to wander, lost on some Plutonian shore,
Pleading, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

Ezra Pound (b. 1885-)
Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
      Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
      Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm.
      So 'gainst the winter's balm
Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm,
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMN.

(Walt Kelly)

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alleygaroo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lillaboy, Louisville Lou.
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Joseph Paul Tierney
Ask not for whom the bells toll.
Don’t get yourself in a stew.
As long as you can hear the clang,
Relax; they’re not for you.

T.S. Kerrigan
"Elvis kissed me once," she swears,
sitting in a neon dive
ordering her drinks in pairs.

Two stools down you nurse a beer,
sensing easy pickings here.

"Back in sixty-eight," she sighs,
smoothing back her yellow hair.
Teared mascara smears her eyes.

Drawing near, you claim you've met,
offer her a cigarette.

"Call me cheap," she sobs, "or bad,
say that decent men dismissed me,
say I've lost my looks, but add,
Elvis kissed me."

(Tom Masson, 1866-1943)
I shot a rocket in the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where
Until next day, with rage profound,
The man it fell on came around.
In less time than it takes to tell,
He showed me where that rocket fell;
And now I do not greatly care
To shoot more rockets in the air.

Gerald Bullet
I feel it when the game is done,
I feel it when I suffer most.
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than ever to have loved and won.

(Paul Dehn)
Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
      Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm old,
      Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I've had a filthy cold
      Since Jenny kiss'd me.

Spike Milligan (1918--2002)
Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
'I'll do a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use,
2B or not 2B?'

Frank Jacobs
from MAD FOR BETTER OR VERSE (Warner, 1975)

Twas Bogart and the Franchot Tones
Did Greer and Garson in the Wayne;
All Muni were the Lewis Stones,
And Rooneyed with Fontaine.

"Beware the deadly Rathbone, son!
Don't Bellamy the Barrymore!
Beware that you the Greenstreet shun,
And likewise Eric Blore!"

He took his Oakie firm in hand,
Long time the Bracken foe to quell;
He stopped to pray at Turhan Bey,
And murmured, "Joan Blondell."

And as he Breened with Jagger drawn,
The deadly Rathbone, eyes Astaire,
Came Rafting through the Oberon
And Harlowed everywhere!

Sabu! Sabu! And Richard Loo!
The Oakie gave a Hardwicke smarck!
He seized its Flynn, and with a Quinn,
He went Karloffing back.

"And didst thou Dunne the Rathbone, Ladd?
Come Grable in the Eddy, boy!
O Alice Faye! O Joel McCrea!"
He Cagneyed in his Loy.

'Twas Bogart and the Franchot Tones
Did Greer and Garson in the Wayne;
All Muni were the Lewis Stones,
And Rooneyed with Fontaine.

Shel Silverstein (1932-1999)
From dusk to dawn,
From town to town,
Without a single clue,
I seek the tender, slender foot
To fit this crystal shoe.
From dusk to dawn,
I try it on
Each damsel that I meet.
And I still love her so, but oh,
I’ve started hating feet.

Phoebe Cary
He dwelt among "Apartments let,"
      About five stories high;
A man, I thought, that none would get,
      And very few would try.

A boulder, by a larger stone
      Half-hidden in the mud,
Fair as a man when only one
      Is in the neighborhood.

He lived unknown, and few could tell
      When Jacob was not free;
But he has got a wife--and O!
      The difference to me!

Roald Dahl
As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma's door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, 'May I come in?'
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
'He's going to eat me up!' she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, 'That's not enough!
'I haven't yet begun to feel
'That I have had a decent meal!'
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
'I've got to have another helping!'
Then added with a frightful leer,
'I'm therefore going to wait right here
'Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
'Comes home from walking in the wood.'
He quickly put on Grandma's clothes,
(Of course he hadn't eaten those.)
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes and after that
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma's chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,

'What great big ears you have, Grandma.'
'All the better to hear you with,' the Wolf replied.
'What great big eyes you have, Grandma,'
said Little Red Riding Hood. 'All the better to see you with,' the Wolf replied.

He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I'm going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma
She's going to taste like caviare.

Then Little Red Riding Hood said,
'But Grandma, what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.'

'That's wrong!' cried Wolf. 'Have you forgot
'To tell me what BIG TEETH I've got?
'Ah well, no matter what you say,
'I'm going to eat you anyway.
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, 'Hello, and do please note
'My lovely furry WOLFSKIN COAT.'

U. A. Fanthorpe

Not my best side, I'm afraid.
The artist didn't give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
Poor chap, he had this obsession with
Triangles, so he left off two of my
Feet. I didn't comment at the time
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.
Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
Why should my victim be so
Unattractive as to be inedible,
And why should she have me literally
On a string? I don't mind dying
Ritually, since I always rise again,
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.


It's hard for a girl to be sure if
She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite
Took to the dragon. It's nice to be
Liked, if you know what I mean. He was
So nicely physical, with his claws
And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,
And the way he looked at me,
He made me feel he was all ready to
Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.
So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,
On a really dangerous horse, to be honest
I didn't much fancy him. I mean,
What was he like underneath the hardware?
He might have acne, blackheads or even
Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon--
Well, you could see all his equipment
At a glance. Still, what could I do?
The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,
And a girl's got to think of her future.

I have diplomas in Dragon
Management and Virgin Reclamation.
My horse is the latest model, with
Automatic transmission and built-in
Obsolescence. My spear is custom-built,
And my prototype armour
Still on the secret list. You can't
Do better than me at the moment.
I'm qualified and equipped to the
Eyebrow. So why be difficult?
Don't you want to be killed and/or rescued
In the most contemporary way? Don't
You want to carry out the roles
That sociology and myth have designed for you?
Don't you realize that, by being choosy,
You are endangering job prospects
In the spear- and horse-building industries?
What, in any case, does it matter what
You want? You're in my way.

Henry Sydnor Harrison
Sarah kissed me when we met,
So did Kate and Belle and Dora,
So did Jane and Violet,
Dolly, Claribel, and Flora.
They all liked me pretty well-
And-dear girls-they never hid it.
I don't like to kiss and tell--Still they did it.

Later in the day I met
(And saluted!) Maude and Daisy,
And I also kissed Cozette,
Clara, Julia, Ruth, and Maisie.
Oh! I'm sorry for Leigh Hunt,
I who've had so many, many,
While poor Leigh's one vaunted stunt
Was with Jenny.

Morris Bishop
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings!
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Also the names of Emory P. Gray,
Mr. and Mrs. Dukes, and Oscar Baer
of 17 West 4th Street, Oyster Bay.

Margaret Blaker
Morning’s at seven,
The plane’s at the airport,
God’s in his Heaven,
But I’m still in Fairport.

James Maxwell
Gin a body meet a body
Flyin' thro the air,
Gin a body hit a body,
Will it fly? And where?
Ilka impact has its measure
Ne'er a' ane hae I
Yet a' the lads they measure me,
Or, at least, they try.

Gin a body meet a body
Altogether free,
How they travel afterwards
We do not always see.
Ilka problem has its method
By analytics high;
For me, I ken na ane o' them,
But what the waur am I?

Somebody said that it couldn't be done--
But he, with a grin, replied,
He'd never be one to say it couldn't be done--
Leastways, not 'til he'd tried.
So he buckled right in, with a trace of a grin,
By golly, he went right to it!
He tackled The Thing That Couldn't Be Done!
And he couldn't do it.

Roald Dahl (1916 - 1990)
As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Said he, 'I think it's much more fun
Than getting stuck with only one.'

Franklin P. Adams
Jenny kiss'd me in a dream;
      So did Elsie, Lucy, Cora,
Bessie, Gwendolyn, Eupheme,
      Alice, Adelaide, and Dora.
Say of honor I'm devoid,
      Say monogamy has miss'd me,
But don't say to Dr. Freud
      Jenny kiss'd me.

Ogden Nash
I've never seen an abominable snowman,
I'm hoping not to see one,
I'm also hoping, if I do,
That it will be a wee one.

Guy Wetmore Carryl
Little Miss Muffet discovered a tuffet,
(Which never occurred to the rest of us)
And, as 'twas a June day, and just about noonday,
She wanted to eat - like the rest of us:
Her diet was whey, and I hasten to say
It is wholesome and people grow fat on it.
The spot being lonely, the lady not only
Discovered the tuffet, but sat on it.

A rivulet gabbled beside her and babbled,
As rivulets always are thought to do,
And dragon flies sported around and cavorted,
As poets say dragon flies ought to do;
When, glancing aside for a moment, she spied
A horrible sight that brought fear to her,
A hideous spider was sitting beside her,
And most unavoidably near to her!

Albeit unsightly, this creature politely Said: "
Madam, I earnestly vow to you,
I'm penitent that I did not bring my hat.
I Should otherwise certainly bow to you."
Thought anxious to please, he was so ill at ease
That he lost all his sense of propriety,
And grew so inept that he clumsily stept
In her plate - which is barred in Society.

This curious error completed her terror;
She shuddered, and growing much paler, not
Only left tuffet, but dealt him a buffet
Which doubled him up in a sailor knot.
It should be explained that at this he was pained:
He cried: "I have vexed you, no doubt of it!
Your fists's like a truncheon." "You're still in my luncheon,"
Was all that she answered. "Get out of it!"

And the Moral is this: Be it madam or miss
To whom you have something to say,
You are only absurd when you get in the curd
But you're rude when you get in the whey.

Rudyard Kipling
He wandered down the moutain grade
    Beyond the speed assigned--
A youth whom Justice often stayed
    And generally fined.

He went alone, that none might know
    If he could drive or steer.
Now he is in the ditch, and Oh!
    The differential gear!

Scintillate, scintillate, globule origifc,
Fain would I fathom thy nature specific,
Loftily poised in ether capacious,
Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous.
When torrid Phoebus refuses his presence
And ceases to lamp with fierce incandescence,
Then you illumine the regions supernal.
Scintillate, scintillate, semper nocturnal.
Then the victim of hospiceless peregrination
Gratefully hails your minute coruscation.
He could not determine his journey’s direction
But for your bright scintillating protection.

Rev. George A. Strong (1832–1912)
He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside.
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That's why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside.

Under a spreading gooseberry bush the village burglar lies,
The burglar is a hairy man with whiskers round his eyes
And the muscles of his brawny arms keep off the little flies.
He goes on Sunday to the church to hear the Parson shout.
He puts a penny in the plate and takes a pound note out
And drops a conscience-stricken tear in case he is found out.

F. H. Townsend
Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,
Or but a wandering voice?
      State the alternative preferred
      With reasons for your choice.

Armand T. Ringer
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
I wonder just how old you are.
You look as if you're only five.
Are you a midget in disguise?

TWO POEMS (After A. E. Housman)
Hugh Kingsmill (1889-1949)
What, still alive at twenty-two,
A fine upstanding chap like you?
Sure, if your throat 'tis hard to slit,
Slit your girl's, and swing for it.

Like enough, you won't be glad
When they come to hang you, lad;
But bacon's not the only thing
That's cured by hanging from a string.

So, when the spilt ink of the night
Spreads o'er the blotting pad of light,
Lads whose job is still to do
Shall whet their knives, and think of you.

ii. 'Tis Summer Time on Bredon
      And now the farmers swear,
The cattle rise and listen
      In valleys far and near,
      And blush at what they hear.

But when the mists in autumn
      On Bredon tops are thick,
The happy hymns of farmers
      Go up from fold and rick,
      The cattle then are sick.

Gerald A. Strong
From "The Song of Mikanwatha"
He killed the noble Mudjokivis,
With the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside,
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside:
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside;
That's why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside.

Bob McKenty
My marriage has unraveled
Because of Robert Frost.
When I take the road less traveled
My wife insists I'm lost.

You’re the top!
You’re Miss Pinkham’s tonic.
You’re the top!
You’re a high colonic.
You’re the burning heat of a bridal suite in use.
You’re the breasts of Venus
You’re King Kong’s penis,
You’re self-abuse.
You’re an arch
In the Rome collection.
You’re the starch
In a groom’s erection.
I’m a eunuch who
Has just been through an op,
But if, Baby, I’m the bottom
You’re the top.

Time to get serious, and review some some poetic social commentaries.

Return to the index of poetry sorted by categories.

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