And the Band Played On…Sans Soloist

Austin “Nimble-Fingers” Foresman
A prodigy page turner
For concert pianists,
Tried to be nearly invisible,
As he riffled pages of sheet music
Between thumb and forefinger,
Isolating the next page to turn.
He’d track the last note bottom right,
Then flip the page just in time
To reveal the first note top left,
Without causing the slightest break
In the soloist’s concentration.
But it was Foresman’s fate one night
To flip three pages at once,
Leaving a prominent pianist lost,
Thirty bars ahead of the orchestra.
Trying desperately
To turn back two pages,
Foresman riffled in panic
And turned back four.
The pianist tried pulling the notes from memory,
But couldn’t.
It is known in page turning circles
As the “Foresman Flub”,
The greatest faux pas
In page turning history.

How Rural Is My Pate

Once,
Each hairbreadth of mine
Was lost in a density of hairbreadths,
Anonymous as cornstalks
In an Iowa cornfield.
Now each hairbreadth of mine
Is at least a thousand hairbreadths away
From its nearest hairbreadth neighbor…
Like rural farmhouses
That get farther and farther away
From neighbors.
And the farms, as well, ripple away
Down narrower roads.
And soon we run out of farmhouses
And the land is as naked
As a vacant moonscape.

Where the Wild Things Dine

Where’s Fenster,
Asked Feinsod of Pester,
Two zoology Ph.Ds,
Hip-deep in a nighttime swamp,
Looking for Mary River Turtles,
Amidst the venomous, toothy beasts
In Nature’s inventory.
Fenster,
Shouted Pester…no reply.
Well, I hope he’s okay,
Said Feinsod with muted solicitude,
Or at least that his notebooks float…
I’d hate to lose his research, too.
All in all, I’d say
He was good company,
Wouldn’t you agree, Pester?
Pester?
Oh, come on Pester,
Enough zoology humor.
But there was only a menacing ripple
In the quiet of the swamp.

Where’s Borrowed Time, When You Need It?

Tobin Chains was living on borrowed time.
He had some time of his own…
As far as he could tell…
But didn’t want to use it up.
So he borrowed time.
But the time he borrowed was up
And his own time started running again.
He called Borrowed Time Merchants,
But they were out of good domestic borrowed time
And didn’t have a firm restocking date.
We have a bit of imported borrowed time,
But, frankly, it lacks quality.
Won’t it do in a pinch, asked Chains.
Maybe, but it usually has to be supplemented
By some of your time,
Since it lacks quality time and party time and quiet time
See what I mean?
So, I’d wait for our best domestic borrowed time
To come back in,
If, of course,
You’ve got the time.

Sophisticated Cannibals

Some like meat well-charred,
And some, uncooked, tartare.
But tartare can’t be spiced enough
In marinade of piquant stuff
To cover up its basic flaw…
It’s eaten raw.

Rich or Poor…We All Got Dust

Dust is the bond between social classes…
The elegant monied and the masses.
It collects on everyone’s things indoors,
The priceless armoires of Louis Quatorze,
Or the simple goods of the bourgeoisie.
It piles up even at Sotheby’s.
Dust motes surely beget with lust,
Since everything is covered with dust.
The difference is that Louis Quatorze
Had dusters in all his corridors,
While our more modest, but dusty, shelves
Are dusted less often and by ourselves.

Common Sense Is for the Birds

As frigid snow swirls all about me
And cold breath puffs from my mouth,
I sit here warming my hands and my feet,
Wondering why geese and not me
Went south.

Censer, Censer Burning Bright

Father Bunshaft swung the censer,
Burning incense, down the aisle,
But stepped on the hem of his robe
That he suddenly realized wasn’t his,
But Father Mulcahy’s.
Ten inches taller than he, himself.
So careful as a bride
He cast down his eyes to avoid the hem,
But veered to close to the right side pews
And, heedless, swinging too far right,
The censer grazed Mrs. Graybill’s cheek.
She shrieked,
And reflexively, he yanked it left,
Gashing Mr. Snowdon on the sniffer.
But not to worry
The censer, white hot,
Cut and cauterized all at once.
Had Mr. Snowdon not fainted, though,
And the widow Graybill not tended to him,
They might never have met…and married…
Once the bandages finally came off.

Compliments to the Chef de Pneu

Joey Spatula, a chef of egg salad simplicity,
Didn’t know a tamale from crème brulee,
But nonetheless wished for Michelin renown.
So he hung in the window of his luncheonette
A Michelin tire…
Like roasted window ducks in Chinatown…
And placed a Michelin sign beside it.
But guilt became the mother of mutation,
When he discovered Escoffier online
And replaced his baseball cap
With the souffle puff of a chef’s hat
And learned to make
Tripe and trout and goose pate,
Coq au vin and cassoulet,
Then changed Joey’s Luncheonette
To the Ivory Spatula,
Took the tire from the window
And waited to be discovered.

Any Day Now…Any Day

Just one sec,
She says,
Indicating imminent readiness to leave.
But really she means,
A geologic sec,
A serious chunk of time,
Hardly a casual eye blink of impatient time,
Not a couple of wasted, earth seconds of time.
No, she’s aligned with the Creator’s time…
The Pleistocene Age…blink,
The Age of the Dinosaurs…blink…
The Ice Age…blink.
And so imminent turns to slow-burn time.
Let me get a bottle of water,
She says.
I have to refresh my lipstick…
I have to change my blouse…
I’ll just be a sec.