Thursday, June 2, 2011

Learning My Limits

Ray Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and that bunch

Write poetry in prose – without the rhyme –

And, while the rest of us are out to lunch,

Make fancy dinners. It’s a hardboiled crime

That they can write such poetry while I

(Poor I) limp forward on gun-blasted knees . . .

Toward what end? – and, yes, it’s true, I’d die

To write such beautiful calamities.

My weaknesses are many, I admit,

Starting (name it!) with my proclivity

For words like “proclivity” and all that shit

In syllables of more than two or three,

Although I know simplicity’s a grace

When writers write about a shotgunned face.

That’s number two – the shotgunned face, I mean:

My second weakness is a taste for grit,

The grittier the better – in between

My teeth . . . and in my ears and eyes, for it

(I.e. the grit) is like the hot sauce on a taco,

Without which you eat only meat and bread.

In Irish, I like Bruen; in Spanish, Paco

Ignacio Taibo – for both of whom the dead

Are only dead if shot between the eyes

Or in the balls. I tend in such directions

Myself: dead bodies must have worms and flies;

Dead men with shot-off balls must have erections.

It’s ugly, much too ugly, I admit it,

And that is why I’m always quick to edit.

Now, wait, I don’t rhyme either: “admit it”/”edit”?

But that won’t make me either Cain or Hammett

(I say it now, as I have often said it:

“Damnit, damnit, damnit, damnit damnit!”).

What other faults have I? I have too many

To fit inside the space of just a sonnet –

More than the pinks in a box of Good & Plenty.

Another false rhyme! (Damnit! Domnet! Donnet!)

Enough of all this self-excoriation!

That’s seven syllables, in case you missed.

Okay, just six. My brain is on vacation.

My head is tired and ready to be kissed.

Must be the hardboiled company I keep.

I think I’m ready for A Bad Night’s Sleep.


Criminal Defense Lawyer Chicago said...

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Michael Wiley said...

Well, thanks, Criminal Defense Lawyer Chicago.

Joshua Corin said...

I especially am envious about how you rhymed "grace" with "shotgunned face." Now that's just plain brilliant.

Kelli Stanley said...

Loved the versifyin', Michael! (and I think my favorite rhyme was Hammett and damn it!)

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Joshua. Only a limited demographic can recognize the potential grace in such things . . . .

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Kelli -- though I'm afraid that I'm not much of a versifier -- yet another limitation. But I also kind of like Hammett/damn it.

Meredith Cole said...

Wow! For some reason I kept hearing it as a rap song in my head. Must have been all that swearin'. Well done, Michael.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Meredith. Yes, it might work better as rap than as a sonnet series -- and rap is definitely more hardboiled than a poem. But I think I might be (deservedly) shot off a stage if I tried it.

Gabi said...

I can't even imagine how long it took you to write this post. You have NO limits, my dear friend.

Shane Gericke said...

Dashielle would have an effin' stroke reading this--in jealousy! Way to bring "dead men with shot-off balls must have an erection" to new flights of brilliance!

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Gabi. One of my stupid pet tricks is that I can think and talk (slowly) in iambic pentameter. Not that I have anything worth SAYING that way . . . just that I can do it.

My nine-year-old son, on the other hand, can turn his tongue sideways -- more than sideways, really: almost upside down -- without touching it. That could turn out to be a more valuable skill.

Michael Wiley said...

When I wrote the line about men with shot-off balls, I thought, "At least Shane might appreciate this." It's something about the Chicago-area water that we both have drunk so much of.