JOHN MORGAN



 

John Morgan writes:  "I was born in New York City in 1941. I grew up in Houston, Texas, where I graduated from high school. That was the end of my formal education. At the age of 12, I discovered Ogden Nash, and began writing light verse. At that age I also wanted to be a farmer. I've supported myself at odd jobs, preferring no other profession than writing. I have a performance sculpture show, using everyday objects in new ways. I have loved several women in my life, but all of them were sensible enough not to marry a poet ..."  Morgan lives in Madison, Wisconsin and is a member of the Mind's Eye Radio collective.   Of the poems below, "When First I Asked to Be Born" appeared in Light Quarterly, and the others in The Neovictorian/Cochlea.   Other poems have appeared in The Eclectic Muse and elsewhere. 

CONTENTS

When First I Asked to Be Born       Cotton Mather        The 31st Century        Fifty Thousand Years Ago    Love        The Moon       Song of the Cardboard Box       Untitled

 

WHEN FIRST I ASKED TO BE BORN

When first I asked to be born,

They gave me the third degree.

Then they handed me a form

And said "There is no guarantee

"That it would work out for you."

Then they looked at me with pity.

"Are you sure youíve thought it through,"

Asked each member of the committee?

 

"Yes, I know that life is brief.

Still, I think Iíd like to be born.

For though thereís strife and grief,

Thereís spring and ragtime,

Art of mime, twist of lime,

Things to climb, whatever Iím,

Thereís Mozart, oysters and creamed corn."

 

I filled out the form and turned it in.

For long the committee conferred.

With shaking of head and wagging of chin,

For a long time they demurred.

 

"Yes, I know that life is brief.

Still, I think Iíd like to be born,

For though thereís strife and grief,

Thereís April and May,

Croquet, swing and sway,

Beaujoulais, Laissez les bons temps rouler,

Thereís Shakespeare, bock beer and creamed corn."

 

For long the committee considered,

A long time it pulled on its beard.

Did I think all was gold that glittered,

For thereís much thatís not as it appeared?

 

"Yes, I know that life is brief.

Still, I think Iíd like to be born.

For though thereís strife and grief,

Thereís love to win,

Yehudi Menuhin, Irving Berlin,

Beguines to begin, vermouth and gin,

Thereís Ogden Nash, bourbon mash and creamed corn."

 

At last the committee relented

And presented me an existential license,

Though they opined I was demented,

And seriously questioned my sense.

 

Now when I awake each morn

To a world by confusion torn,

And wonder why I was born,

Thereís starry nights,

City of Lights, all those kites,

Wild goose flights, The Bill of Rights,

Thereís Picasso, Paris and popcorn.

 

coda:

Thereís Ray and Bob, luck on the job,

Corn on the cob, and creamed corn.

 

*

 

COTTON MATHER

 

Cotton Mather

Would work up a lather

His flock to gather.

 

His brother, Wool,

More amiable,

Liked to pull

On a snootful.

 

His sister, Flax,

Often made attacks

And wisecracks

On Cottonís lacks.

 

His sister, Silk,

Not of their ilk,

All honey and milk.

 

*

 

THE 31ST CENTURY

 

           I

 

In the 31st Century

The Police Department

Will be replaced

By the Please Department.

 

The Please will be out

To please people

Instead of police them.

 

           II

 

In the 31st Century

The Please will have

The power to arrest anyone

Who looks like they

Need a vacation.

 

If convicted by a jury,

They will be sentenced

To two weeks

In the Caribbean.

 

           III

 

In the 31st Century

It was discovered that farming

Is a hereditary condition

Caused by cows and vegetables.

 

Scientists immediately set out

To find a cure.

 

           IV

 

In the 31st Century

Farm Relief Laws were passed

To give farmers some relief from

Farming while a cure was being sought.

Consequently, farmers began

To build swimming pools

In the middle of their fields.

At high noon

Theyíd take a dip before

Nipping back on their tractor after

Lunch, and begin to feel more human.

 

          V

 

In the 31st Century

There were no exports or imports,

No tariffs or quotas.

 

Whatever people made extra,

They packed up and floated

Out to sea.

Wherever it wound up

Is where it went.

 

          VI

 

In the 31st Century

A few pieces of money

Were left in glass

Cases in museums.

 

Whatever people made or did

Was all they were or had

To give each other.

They lived to give,

Not to grub or grab.

 

         VII

 

In the 31st Century

there was no war

And no pacifism,

No isolationism

And no interventionism.

 

Countries regularly

Invaded each other

With unarmed armies

Bearing armloads of

Clocks, chickens, olive oil,

Whatever people could use.

 

On holidays they would

Bomb each other with

Boxes of toys, musical instruments,

Poems and cherry pies.

 

          VIII

 

In the 31st Century

There were no summit meetings.

The leaders of the world

Got together once a year,

Jumped in a big swimming pool,

And got drunk,

And never talked shop.

 

This way peace was preserved,

And people who were made

Uncomfortable by peace

Gradually said they supposed

They could tolerate it.

 

          IX

 

In the 31st Century

It was concluded that economics

Was the science of measuring

Everything carefully to make

Sure that some people have

Too much and some people

Have too little.

 

Thereafter, all books on

Economics were converted

Into garden mulch.

 

          X

 

In the 31st Century

It was discovered that

History causes cancer.

 

Scientists immediately

Set out to find a cure,

And within a generation,

Everyone had been

Vaccinated against

Politics.

 

           XI

 

Health Questionnaire

 

Have you been vaccinated against politics?

Do you wear rubbers against religiosity?

Do you carry an umbrella against ideology?

Do you practise prophylaxis against prophecy?

Do you guard against truth decay?

 

           XII

 

Deliverance?

"Where would you like to be delivered?"

"Deliver me to the 31st Century."

 

Maybe someday in the

Delivery room of

The 31st Century,

Civilization will be born.

 

 

*

 

 

GREGORY STREET

 

An August day, where Gregory Street

And Knickerbocker nearby meet,

I pause and feel, in summer heat,

A little while, the world complete.

 

In a canopy of elms

Beside the high-banked railroad track,

Descends a peace that overwhelms

A lone traveller looking back.

 

Where the garden for the grower

Is the momentís only care,

The smoke of barbecue and mower

Floats and mingles in the air,

 

Incense of an afternoon

Ineffable beyond compare.

By a fence, the odd birdís tune

Holds me rapt, listening there.

 

A crop of crooked license plates

In ragged row runs down the street.

One, aptly lettered, wryly states

What others sometimes must repeat.

 

A bounding cat flees down the walk,

In hot pursuit by householder.

A sunflower nods upon its stalk,

Its yard anchored by a boulder.

 

A rusty pickup, curbside, rests

Beneath a tree where squirrels nest.

A van with confidence attests,

Writ large, "We rid your home of pests."

 

Tricycles lie in the grass,

Childish laughter on the breeze.

They speak to me as I pass,

I, who once was one of these.

 

*

 

FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS AGO

 

Fifty thousand years ago

Folks didnít have a place to go.

There were no ballparks and no bars,

No restaurants and no cars.

Oh, things indeed were mighty slow

 

Fifty thousand years ago

 

People didnít have any dough.

Theyíd just sit around the cave,

For they could neither spend nor save.

How they survived I just donít know

 

Fifty thousand years ago

 

They didnít have a picture show.

They would have to rise at dawn

To go and spear a mastodon.

The social graces were pretty low

 

Fifty thousand years ago

 

You were either friend or foe,

And the only club in town

Was the one that knocked you down.

We had a lot of room to grow,

 

Fifty thousand years ago.

 

*

 

LOVE

 

One day light walked into the night.

One night dark walked into the light.

Led face to face,

They fled into embrace.

 

*

 

THE MOON

 

Iíve never written a poem about the moon,

And donít plan to anytime soon.

Although itís true the moon has some pull,

Still the literatureís already full,

So I expect that nothing from me is due,

As thereís nothing to say thatís new.

In these circumstances, the risk is

That any new poem would be meniscus.

So, Diana, I trust youíll forgive us

If this gibberish grows gibbous.

If this poem doesnít shine,

Thatís because itís mine,

And would probably be more refulgent

If it werenít so self-indulgent.

"No rain if a new moon holds water."

But for that I wouldnít give a quarter.

It just doesnít hold water,

Not by Artemisí daughter.

Already this poemís too taxing,

Which is why it isnít waxing,

So itís easy to explain

Why itís best to let it wane.

With this subject I canít come to grips,

So let it remain in eclipse.

 

*

 

SONG OF THE CARDBOARD BOX

 

You may think itís mystical

Or say my head is full of rocks,

But how could we exist at all

Without the cardboard box?

 

Everything you eat and wear,

It came in a cardboard box.

Theyíre here and there and everywhere,

Theyíre lifeís essential building blocks.

 

So many ways theyíre bound and battened Ė

How many now got rich and fat

By going and getting themselves a patent

For making a box that wonít fall flat!

 

Down at the patent office one day,

The inventors arrived in droves and flocks,

And each one had a better way

Of making a cardboard box.

 

At every hour, day or night,

No matter what the clock says,

Thereís things (I hope they make it all right),

Coming your way in cardboard boxes.

 

Now, they come in large and small,

Thereís a box of every size.

Without them we wouldnít be functional.

For sure, weíd be immobilized.

 

The day the cardboard box came out,

It was a great event.

People in the streets were heard to shout

"The cardboard box is Heaven_sent!"

 

Now, when you go to Paradise,

They say you canít take it with you.

But if you pack some things, youíre wise.

In a cardboard box you can take a few.

 

Theyíre passing the Pearly Gates in swarms.

St. Peter frowns and shakes his locks,

For they all are carrying in their arms

A great big cardboard box.

 

In the days of plagues and poxes,

When life was possibly more obnoxious,

Itís one of your pretty paradoxes

How they got by without cardboard boxes.

 

*

 

UNTITLED

 

The world is coming apart at the seams.

So it seems.

So?

Sew.

Sew its seams.