Thursday, July 08, 2010

13 epigrams

These were published many years ago, in an obscure pamphlet issued by Robert L. Barth; then I set them aside and forgot them. The only epigram I have written in the years since, I believe, went unnoticed by readers of this blog. (When I drew his attention to it, Patrick Kurp apologized. “Sorry I screwed up your Martial Plan,” he said.) Earlier today, cleaning out my office in College Station, I came upon these twenty-five-year-old epigrams again, and decided to lend them impermanence in a new form.

1. To J. V. Cunningham

Take these, the work of quiet days,
In place of what I owe you—measured praise.
As you have made my mind your own device
To honor you I epigrammatize.

2. To the Reader

Though you’d prefer a known designer brand,
Accept these rhymes: they’re cheap, but made by hand.

3. To My book

In Herrick’s day men wiped themselves
With quarto leaves. If you ne’er sit
On permanent collection shelves
At least you have got free of shit.

4. To My Bookseller

Behind the thick-backed boys where clerks neglect it
My book will slip and cower if you let it.
Don’t. Make it stand up front where all can get it.

5. Dr. Johnson on the Death of His Mother

                           Idler, 41

If you have tears, whoever you may be,
Enough to drop for mourners filing by,
Then let this train be your last cause for grief:
The last steps of an inoffensive life.


Post-Structuralist, rest in peace,
For whom all substance was caprice,
All meaning vain. At your demise
Yourself were desubstantialized.

7. Martial 3.71

I know, yes. How? I didn’t read your mind.
He’s sore between the legs and you, behind.

8. To Shakespearean Actors

Uncertain kings on th’raisèd stage
Strutting and frothing in a rage
Of unmarked accents, ill-bred shouts,
Easy but in a bawdyhouse,
You act this pre-neurotic drama
To give the audience a trauma.


Men praise here eyes, her lips, her dress, her stockings.
Coy answers naught. And why? To keep them talking.


Once Loose was young, petite, and love was free!
To any man who’ll listen now she tells
Her serial erotic odyssey.
What passion gave away confession sells.

11. Someone’s Epitaph for His Wife

The girl was trouble; I desired no bride
Except in bed, and after she had died.

12. With the Baseball Encyclopedia

These epitaphs, by each man scored
In measures from antiquity,
Keep his life’s record here assured,
Though evened to finality.

13. To My Wife

I never write of love, it’s true.
If love be mutual attraction,
The simultaneous urge to screw,
Let us pass time in mute distractions
Who seek inherence in the act
And have no voices to announce it.
Our marriage is a binding pact
In a dead tongue. We can’t pronounce it.


A. Jurek said...

Will you have a new email account where your fans can reach you?

D. G. Myers said...

Same email address. Will post new contact info when it is available early next month.

Shelley said...

College Station! As a Texas writer, that caught my eye. A&M has such a respected press: shockingly, the president of SMU recently floated an idea to shut their press down. The outcry was so great that I believe he has decided to "reconsider." Maybe an epigram should be written about that....

Unknown said...

Six kids too. Hmm. These make good reading. Thanks.

D. G. Myers said...

Four, actually. But you stop counting after three.

Although hotels don’t, I have learned.

Artemesia said...

I loved this epigram:
1) To J. V. Cunningham
"Take these, the work of quiet days,
In place of what I owe you—measured praise.
As you have made my mind your own device
To honor you I epigrammatize."

It seems to sum up 95% of what passes for literary which the critic hoists him/herself up at a writer's his/her own petard.

Much amused. Thanks.