TWENTY-ONE ATTEMPTS AT THE WILLIAM MATTHEWS CHALLENGE TO RUIN, WITH THE LEAST POSSIBLE CHANGE, A FAMOUS LINE OF POETRY
Whose woods these are I think I know.
Whose irons these are I think I know.
I heard a Fly Buzz – when I died –
I heard a Fly Buzz – when it died –
The proper study of mankind is Man.
The proper study of mankind is jazz, man.
Let us go then, you and I
Let us go then, me and you
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Little Goat, who made thee?
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
In Timbuktu did Kubla Khan
When I was one and twenty
When I was twenty-one
I caught a tremendous fish
I caught a whopper
“O where ha’ you been, Lord Randall, my son?”
“O where ha’ you been, Lord Sheldon, my son?”
When I heard the learn’d astronomer
When I heard the learn’d astrologer
About suffering they were never wrong
About surfing they were never wrong
A poem should be palpable and mute
A poem should be palpable and cute
Drink to me only with thine eyes
Blink to me only with thine eyes
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
I felt a Funeral, in my Spleen
There were three ravens sat on a tree
There were three mavens sat on a tree
When I see birches bend to left and right
When I see bitches bend to left and right
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
Two toads diverged in a yellow wood
O Rose, thou art sick!
O Nose, thou art sick!
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall
Something there is that doesn’t love a mall
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may
Gather ye nose-bugs while ye may
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Do not go, gentile, into that good night.
FOUR GEESE ON THE LAWN OF THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
How long have they been here I wonder
on the lawn of the elementary school,
the grass not yet cut, still thick and sweet,
and the dandelions still bright yellow and still
spread out around them like their own golden eggs?
It looks like they’ve been here all morning.
It looks like they’ve been arguing all morning.
It looks like they have just now agreed
while one, only reluctantly persuaded,
now waddles away from the other three,
still, in her heart, unpersuaded, still, in
her heart, not yet ready to teach us their secret.
IN A PUBLIC PLACE
The flag flutters.
The white and pink petals fall.
One breeze is enough.
Piped into the men’s room,
a Beethoven string quartet.
I wish I were constipated.
On another bench,
a man reads a book of poetry.
Someday I want to write
a book of poetry
that cannot be read in public.
It will be illegal.
The flowering plant is doing its job:
being publicly private,
being privately public.
The material dematerializes.
One deity dies.
Another is born.
Look! The moon is made of money.
Let us spend it on happiness.
It will be sold out soon.
FOUND POEM WITH VARIATIONS
Paganini is supposed to have said
that Stradivari “only used the wood
on trees on which nightingales sang.”
Frost is supposed to have said
that Dickinson “only used the paper
from trees on which butterflies were born.”
Pound is supposed to have said
that Whitman “only used the paper
from trees under whose boughs couples copulated.”
Moore is supposed to have said
that Frost “only used the paper
from New Hampshire maple trees.”
Tennyson is supposed to have said
that Blake “only used the paper
from trees in which angels sat.”
Creeley is supposed to have said
that Ginsberg “only used the paper
from the same trees Whitman used.”
Four-time Pushcart Prize as well as Best of the Net nominee, J.R. Solonche has been publishing in magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early 70s. He is coauthor of PEACH GIRL: POEMS FOR A CHINESE DAUGHTER (Grayson Books).