SDMB Poetry Sweatshop - Feb. 2010 edition, Anthology Thread.

Hello, and welcome to the Anthology Thread for the Feb. 2010 edition of the Straight Dope Message Board Poetry Sweatshop. (The logistics thread may be found here.) This thread will be posted at 5 PM, Pacific Standard Time, and as of the posting, any interested poets will have one hour to write a poem - any length, any form, any rhyme scheme (or none) - but the poem must include the following three words -


Please e-mail your completed poem to sdmbpoetrysweatshop at gmail dot com. At 6 PM, Pacific Standard Time, a poll will be established, and readers will have one week to vote for their favourite poem in the anthology. At the end of the week, the author will be acclaimed Poet Laureate of the Straight Dope Message Board.

I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage all readers to vote in the poll - although the poems are once again first class, and choosing will be difficult, voting is a crucial source of positive feedback for all the poets. It will be a secret poll, so no one need know how you voted. As an experiment, this poll will have only the title and reply number - the poet’s user names will be in spoiler boxes, and only in the thread.

I must once again state - because all of the poems received thus far will be posted under my user name, it may appear that I am trying to claim credit for all of them. Only one of these poems has been written by me; I have neither the talent nor the versatility displayed in this collection.

Please - read, enjoy, savour! There are some truly great poems here. Then please vote for whichever poem resonates most with you.

“The neighbours say they think this land’s for farming.”
His steely eye and smile gave me a chill;
His attitude and manner were both charming,
And yet, I thought “He’s going for the kill!
The secrets buried here are quite alarming!”
As we approached the stump, he drew a quill…

His forest desk was neatly set -
A parchment spread upon the killing stump.
I saw the axe, then our eyes met.
I turned and ran, I made as if to jump -
The leaves flew at my ankles as the net
was sprung. I hollered as my heart began to thump.

He swung the axe and pierced my heart,
Then dipped his quill pen in the spreading pool,
Sat by the stump, inquiring with macabre cool
“Any last words? I need a place to start…”

Le Ministre de l’au-delà

I’m Joseph Harrington Quill
around here they call me Farmer Quill
Old Man Quill, or just Joe
(but not so much anymore)
I’ve been farming all my life
here on the outskirts of town
got a real nice house
you can just see the dome of the
county courthouse from my attic window
and that’s looking out over my hundred acres of corn
it’s not an easy life, but it’s the one I’ve always had
like my father and grandfather before me
my wife died a few years back, and we never had no kids
I’m a respectable man
an upstanding citizen
never had much attention paid to me, and wanted none
but that changed when those folks started disappearing
around here.

Runaways, hitchhikers, vagrants and the like
worthless trash
nobody anybody cared much about
almost as if they’d never been born
but missing, and not seen again
rumored to have “met some macabre fate,”
or so that newspaper lady wrote.

Well, the Sheriff came around to my place
him and some of his boys
hitching his thumbs in his gunbelt
asking a lot of damnfool questions
I didn’t have much to tell him
and nothing at all to show him
and eventually they went away
which was just as well
I reckon he’ll never find my new crop
not even with a warrant
but maybe with a backhoe
You know, after all these years
I believe it may be time for me to be
moving on.

Elendil’s Heir

With a bloody quill, I’ll tell the macabre tale
Of a tiny little town where The Crazies did prevail.
Farming was the livelihood of most the people there
And farming uses water: of this you should beware.

It was a sunny afternoon when Rory came to town
With shotgun in his hand. The sheriff had to shoot him down.
They thought he was a drunk but his tests all came back clean.
Then another man went crazy. My God, what could this mean?

Something in the water had come down from the sky.
Three hunters came upon it but didn’t know the reason why.
The sheriff and his deputy soon learned the awful truth
When the army soon invaded through their doors and from their roof.

Death and fire and shooting soon spread throughout the street
And a little band of townsfolk tried to find a safe retreat.
One by one they faltered, one by one they died
Until there were only two, walking side by side.

Will this be the ending or has it just begun?
Will the crazies get them, or have they really won?
Romero answered one way, Eisner was not so harsh
But either way, there is no joy in the town of Ogden Marsh.


I see you there

planting the seeds
cultivating the guilt
farming your lies
harvesting evil

sowing and reaping
each little crime
barbed like a quill
leaking poison. oozing infection

trapping the unwary
tainting the pure
spreading your fever
pandemically proportioned

a macabre existence
I guess you never heard
that proverb
grandmothers everywhere know…

In Winnipeg

Your absence is unpronounceable
It is as if I were a prisoner of war
Released into some Slavic country,
Without the proper currency or any sort of map,

It is like the morning I woke up
With an inexplicable yen
For blueberries, and ransacked the fridge
Which was full of everything but,
And so I ate and ate and felt
Not one whit of satisfaction, just a
Bit of indigestion, and this unshakeable ache
Which I swore only blueberries could soothe

It is like my keys, which will not stay
Anywhere reasonable, so ten times a day
I am searching and cursing and pulling out
My goddamned hair, because they have to be
somewhere, don’t they?

It is like the first dead thing
I ever saw, a bird whose wing
Was bent back the wrong way, each
Quill tipped with blood, and the rest of that day
Was similarly tinted with my newfound
Knowledge of the macabre, its power
To hypnotize

It is like farming in the middle of a desert.
It is like dancing in a straightjacket.
It is like drinking the ocean.
It is like everything is a merry-go-round, and I have been spinning so long I am orbiting myself, and no matter how many times I turn around I cannnot undo your death.

It is like this:
I’m dizzy since you’re gone.


Stephen King picked up a quill,
Penned a story meant to chill.
In this way a tale was born
Titled “Children of the Corn”.
Though, after all, it is his jobre
To write things scary and macabre,
I ever since have found alarming
Anything to do with farming.


Oh how easy it is,
for quill-wielders who sit
within ivory towers lumbering high,
to speak of numbers and cents!

“A little less here”, say they.
“And make it faster there”,
and the macabre metaphorical hangman
tightens his noose.

No mere words wrote them!
For those farming at the fields.
A single wave of the quill
had doubled their toil,
with an ironical remarkable ease.

And the quill-wielders still sit,
within ivory towers lumbering high,
speaking of numbers and cents,
tightening the metaphorical macabre noose.

Crowbar of Irony +3

With reddened clouds the morn arrives
o’er amber waves of grain –
its splendour to encompass strives
my fetterd quill in vain.

I plant my seeds in metered rows
and hope to harvest verse:
that from the seeds a poem grows –
not overlong, but none too terse

nor too constrained to rhyme and form,
yet neither growing wild;
like corn-ears bending to a storm:
unbound, but still in rows compiled.

Thus I direct my farming hand
with care across the page
to till and row this paper-land
covered with weeds, and sage.
So aid in this macabre act
to catch, in rhymes astute,
the world – in fancy and in fact –
and let my words take root;

aid through the grace of readership,
and eat the bread I bake;
for in his own produce’s nip
the poet can’t partake.

Half Man Half Wit

We met them at the close of evening,
Returning from their farming land,
Feet heavy with snow and clay
And a sullen greeting for strangers.

On the day before, Duncanson took up
His quill, and he quickly wrote:
“Put all to the sword under seventy.”
And I hid my sword beneath my coat.

A blizzard came and the night ran on,
While we ate with our unwilling hosts.
“Cutt these miscreants off root and branch”:
To sleep with strangers, and rise with ghosts.

The morning broke with a woman’s cry
A macabre scene in Maclain’s bed
Forty women and children chased into the snow
And another eight and thirty dead.

“As you love yourself,” Duncanson wrote.
“I am expecting that you will not err.”
But we did our duty not loving ourselves,
Under oath we never meant to swear.


Dear Edgar, my darling–

I have fallen on feeble health
and already hear the cold bell calling
to take me from my youth and wealth.

So quit your farming of sad themes
and quest for the macabre.
You need not hunt for haunting dreams
or gather reasons to sob.

You will ache for loss of your innocent gem;
you will curse the fact I died.
And those who sing my requiem,
will curse me for my pride.

I take your inky raven quill
To ensure my praises are sung.
Remember me, my love, if you will
As fair and debonair and young.

Do not let those whose bitter voice
floats beside my bier bed
continue to hide that they rejoice
to find your golden love is dead;

instead, prevent the bells and song
and keep me close forever more.
I shall leave you, Edgar, before long.

Your queen, your love – Lenore


Slightly macabre, mostly charming
He waits beside the rusty gate.
Don’t be late!

With a grin that’s quite alarming
He leads you to an empty field.
Don’t you yield!

Sod and sweat, farms and farming,
You know the work you’ve come to do.
Through and through!

The way he watches is disarming –
The open book, the scratching quill.
He’s watching still!

The harm is done, and harming
Is hot work. Lay down!
Upon the fresh-turned ground!

The Hamster King

It happened so often as a boy that mother
often referred to me as the macabre child.
I would be asleep and see the hand of God
reach through my chest cavity, pulling my heart out,
veins dangling and dripping like the end of a rain.

I would hear father’s voice booming from the pulpit,
“The life of a thing is in its blood!” Then he’d ask
if we felt no shame? For we were supposed to be fruitful,
farming the land, creating dominion over the heathens
and other creatures, for which God was to be praised.

I’d start with a quick and give a guttural cry
that only the most tormented conscience could feel.
If I ever had to give account I would say,
“Lord God, I served you in the best way I could,
I took up my quill and told them you were not there.”


And there - the poll is established, and now I get to read these carefully and choose. Best wishes to all our poets for their outstanding work!


Let’s keep those votes coming in! These are all wonderful poems… enjoy reading them!

Yay! Since we’ve got a week to vote, I can come back later and read them all carefully when I’ve got time.

Tough decision–**really **great work, everybody!

(I really liked having the authors’ names in spoiler boxes. I think that worked out very well.)

I, of course, missed the deadline again. :smack:

Thanks for putting this together! I can’t wait for the next one!

My pleasure - I’m finding these most enjoyable!

This was really tough to vote as there were at least 3 that I really liked…