Christmas is in the air and before you know it the New Year will be here. I wish everyone a happy holiday season and a year free of unpleasantness.
I haven’t made New Year resolutions for years — I rarely managed to keep them anyway. This year nonetheless, as a kindness to my children, I intend to continue culling the papers I’ve accumulated through many years of writing.
Here’s a poem a friend sent me in 1991, which I’d included in an article about our complicated English language. Spell checkers have improved since then, but beware. They can still goof.
Eye have a spelling chequer It came with my pea sea It plainly marques four my revue Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word And weight four it two say Weather eye am wrong oar write It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid It nose bee fore two long And eye can put the error rite Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it Eye am shore your pleased two no Its letter perfect awl the weigh My chequer tolled me sew.
Hans was undoubtedly the smartest person I ever knew. He was also so funny, he’d have me laughing out loud until my sides hurt.
In going through my papers and throwing out thousands (honestly) I came across this poem of his and couldn’t resist sharing it with you.
Hans came from Vienna as a young adult, where he spoke German and another local dialect. He said other languages were easy because he’d studied Latin at school and Latin is the root of so many languages. But I think it was much more than that. I hope you enjoy this playful poem he wrote about English.
WHO’S ASKING WHO?
by Hans Muller
All of us languish with speech induced anguish and parsing our sentences gives rise to repentences. Hence using the vernacular looms as positively Dracular.
Much joy to many gives The usage of genitives and even a native can have fun with a dative. Then why do brains turn into sieves when confronted with accusatives?
Is it HE or HIM, is it ME or I, WE or US, SHE or HER — and why? Is REGARDLESS wrong, IRREGARDLESS right or are they the same — no, not quite. When I go to bed, do I LAY or LIE? Did they LEARN me wrong or should it be TEACH? I’ve got doctorates in English and Speech.
Aren’t the schools rich in certified rules which prescribe things grammatical? Do I seem fanatical if I declare that I’m aghast finding ignorance so deep, so vast.
If the abusive of mother-tongue usage prevails incontestably and quite indigestibly. I’m asking with unceasing awe: Ain’t lingocide against the law?
I get jittery and tlnglish speaking so-called good English, The King’s, the Queen’s or the Bard’s For me that is not in the cards. What the heck — WHOM or WHO, why don’t I just do what Tom and Dick and Harry can, talking simple North American.
Life isn’t fair: It isn’t fair that my children are funnier than I am. It isn’t fair that they’re cleverer than I am and it sure isn’t fair that they write so much better than I do — and they started doing so early.
Rafi wrote one at about the same age, but if Susan’s was a saga, his called ‘How did she die?’ was a tome, much too long for this post. If you want to read it you will have to wait until it is published. (Chuckle.)
Instead I’ve chosen to share the following poem written during his early university years — in about 1991.
A MAN AND HIS TEAR
By Rafi Kauffmann
Looking into a sullen eye A moment of realism slips through A moment of evil and self-destruction Yet of kindness and redemption, A tear
Sold is the innocence of youth For a rough tempered style, Tattered is the skin Worn beyond its years But still, a tear
Glistening with emotion It swells but won’t fall The impression on others holds it back
A positive sign this tear A breakthrough well needed An escape well deserved
Honestly it sings of experience A living history contained within its walls What it knows he knows What it is, he is
When I was a child, I loved Halloween — never had a birthday party, I didn’t want one because it was like asking for presents. It made me uncomfortable.
I did, however, have wonderful Halloween Costume parties. My friends and I looked forward to them for years, and ended the evening by going out ‘Trick or Treating’.
The following poem was written by my friend Hans Muller, who never minded creating new words if he felt like it.
Halloween’s last gasp
At the un-ghostly hour of five past eleven Seven ghosts met in a chimney, seven A chain-clatter, bone-black, a flaccid cadaver They commenced a ghastly, sidereal palaver.
And the seventh ghost so spake to the others, ‘Why don’t we ghosts have fathers and mothers?’ From what manner of substance are we cleft That of loving parents we are forever bereft?’ Despondently sighing they tell their chains: ‘It is half past eleven, half an hour remains.’
The fourth ghost answered him thus, the fourth, ‘Such a thing is not true of the ghosts of the north: In fact, they have fathers and mothers galore Four sets of each, at the utleast four.’
Pensively brooding, they gnaw their chains, It’s a quarter of midnight, one quarter remains. Up spake the sixth of the ghosts there assembled And at his gruescent words they trembled. Amorphously, voidly, they quantrify, They’re fourfold invisible, fourfold awry.
Fourfold they quatrivide nothingness By fourfolded, quantrivoid, sexless caress. There’s horrified silence but for stifled groans, Iced ectoplasm cloaks regified bones.
Frenzedly gasping, they devour their chains, Sixty seconds till midnight, one minute remains. For a moment they stare at each other in fright, Then, suddenly, disenfleshed cheek bones turn bright. Disenlipped mouths twist in jawous grins, Spiderlike fingers slap calfless shins,
Into depths of boundless mirth they delve As the church bell tolls a thundering twelve And they all exclaim as with only one mouth: ‘We’re lucky to be the ghosts of the south.’
They vanish, regurgitating their chains, It is twelve o’clock midnight and nothing remains.
I’m a delicate flower. I’ve got allergies to lots of chemicals, so I’ve never dyed my hair. Tired of lock-downs and not seeing friends, I wanted to do something new. My bright idea was to colour my hair purple.
Do I look good in purple? No! I NEVER wear purple. And did I do a good job? Are you kidding? I did a better job spraying water on my kitchen floor than I did my hair and I’m still trying to get the colour out of my white counter. Still, if you look really hard you can see a little purple. You may laugh. I did.
Someone who loves me enough to tell the truth (and shall remain nameless) emailed: ‘Yes! I see it! But people may just think it is the “blue hair” of old ladies who try to brighten their grey and leave the stuff on too long!’
I loved the following poem, ‘Warning’, long before I became old. You may too. Since this is National Poetry Month, this is a good time to revisit it. Enjoy!
‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph (1932-2018)
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beer-mats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Note: Thanks Andrew for helping me find a gentle and safe dye to use.
My late friend Hans was a really funny guy. He enjoyed marzipan, which I don’t. Thus marzipan was a safe thing for me to get for him whenever he visited.
I drove to the candy store in Kerrisdale for it until Purdy’s opened a shop in my own neighbourhood on 4th Avenue.
Since I was working, Hans was on his own during the day. I suggested he walk the few blocks for the chocolates on his own.
You couldn’t insult Hans. I recall telling him that he was arrogant. His response? ‘Well, I don’t know anyone who has more reason to be.’ It was impossible to get angry at him.
Hans loved Shakespeare. He even wrote an award-winning musical set in Shakespeare’s England. (It was the sole production not actually written by Shakespeare ever performed in ‘The Globe Theatre’ in Los Angeles.)
Tongue in cheek, he complained about the terrible treatment he was receiving at my hands. Tongue in cheek, I wrote this for him. We both had a good laugh. I hope you enjoy reading it too.
My Love, Alone He Walketh
My love, upon the Avenue he walketh Gallantly, bravely, forth he setteth Alone, uncivilized hordes he faceth On Fourth, between Arbutus and Yew.
Not rain, nor sleet, nor snow delayeth Nor fear of highwaymen who lurketh Along the dangerous route he walketh Onward, onward to Purdy’s door.
These foreign climes, my love, he braveth Distanced far from the land he loveth For his fair damsel alone he cometh Her beauteous face to see once more.
And when my love, indeed he leaveth And alone, I must myself then beith Shall I, on mornings cold and cleareth Walk in his steps to Purdy’s store.
The door handle, I shall then caresseth For dear hands upon it once had layeth My love’s devotion I shall recalleth And surely remember evermore.
He walk-ed this path so unafraideth For marzipan, the world he’d braveth Upon my knees I thank the Lordeth That above all else, he does not snore.
I’ve been housebound during this stressful time of COVID: 19 and Judy is one of those special friends who have stayed in touch. She has been checking in by email every single day. What would I do without friends like her? Thank you Judy and also to the many others who have not forgotten me.
Judy Parker is a brilliant, published author and an avid reader who contributes much to our book club. I am fortunate to have her in my life.
Thank you too, Judy, for allowing me to share your work with my readers and to love your cat Bear.
P.S. Please note the spaces between Judy’s poem’s lines are because of my lack of expertise with technology. Please disregard them. Thank you, Muriel
Haven’t I Seen This Movie?
By Judy Parker
Small town or big city. Lonely cabin or
Michigan Lake beach. I was there
dark lane. South Pacific Island.
Sandy beach on a sunny day.
Cue ominous music. Where is the
cheerleader? The old geezer? The jock?
Somebody gives warning but the
warnings are mocked. “Run away! Hide!
Stay in your homes!”
The monster creeps closer,
slithers or slides, stomps on the cities
or eats the new bride. And everyone parties,
Where is the cheerleader?
unaware of the screams, until they’re
the victims, and it’s their blood that streams
over the cobbles or down the morgue drain.
Finally it’s over, the movie is done,
and no one’s too worried about who is gone.
It’s only a movie. It’s all in fun. Monsters
In movies will leave us alone. But the monsters
we face now will follow us home. This isn’t
a movie. It just feels like it’s one.
Mornings are dark right now, but I am looking forward with anticipation and pleasure to our wonderful skies come spring. Vancouver has the most beautiful clouds I’ve ever seen and they fill me with joy. I face north and see the mountains from my windows and sometimes the clouds embrace the peaks as they would a lover.
Good Morning World…
Night in passing gives a military salute
And a promise of a crimson dawn
The Burrard Bridge at dawn, one of my favorite of many local bridges
Kisses my window.
Blossoms vie for space and light on my balcony
They push and shove like crowds of pedestrians
On a crowded boulevard.
My constant companion, Jerry, the anukshuk, watches over my balcony garden and the lovely miniature lilac tree daughter Susan gave me.
Cool air caresses my skin with a hint
Of sensual heat to come if I could only
Learn to be patient.
Fresh air and brewed coffee and car fumes
Dance together in my nostrils offering
A feast at my fingertips.
Good Morning World!
‘Good Morning World,’ I call out to nobody.
It isn’t a fire folks, just a beautiful dawn in my city
Hans Muller was a talented, classically-trained musician who studied at the Conservatory of Music in Vienna. Brilliant and playful, his most wonderful trait was his irreverent sense of humor. To him, even the great Beethoven was fair game.
Going through stuff to throw out, I found these words he wrote to the master’s ‘Fer Elise’. You can sing it to the music….
Beethoven: Certainly gifted but I wouldn’t have wanted to marry him either
Ludwig named this ditty for Elise
but no one seems to know who she’s
Was she from Bonn or was she Viennese?
What was her amorous expertise?
Was Elise his lover or his maid
And, either way, was she well paid?
Did she become his broad, his concubine
When he asked her ‘Your place or mine?’
Was she his chick, his moll, his fox
Or did she only darn his socks?
Therese Malfalli Could she have been Ludwig’s Elise? He may have asked her to marry him, but she refused.
Did she spend nights of passion with Beethoven?
Limbs entwined and interwoven?
Was Elise a flirt, was she a tease?
Did she undress, smile and say cheese?
Did Ludwig kiss Elise beneath a tree
And touch her way above the knee?
Or did he give her one strategic squeeze
And hand her his apartment keys?
What did he do when he met her
Did he right away embrace and pet her
Or did he sit down at the keyboard
And compose one of his immortal tunes?
Perhaps the most romantic though a bit pedantic
Opus twenty-seven, number two, in C sharp minor
Known as moonlight, a sonata soon quite popular
All over Vienna and in Bonn
The biggest hit by Ludwig Van.
Hans Muller: All this from a man for whom English was only one of six languages he spoke and read with ease…
One stormy night in bed he said to her
As winter gales howled from the North,
I have decided that I’ll do my Fifth
As soon as I have done the Fourth,
A Fourth, a Fifth, said she, but Lou
You cannot even manage two.
Did she listen to what he composed?
Sometimes she did, sometimes she dozed.
One day he wrote a Missa called Solemnis,
She said: Ludwig, I condemn this
Must it go thus
To and fro — it bores me so!
Was she a connoisseur, was she well-read
Or was she only good in bed?
Of all of music history’s mysteries
The greatest puzzle is E l i s e.