The public schools taught my children no poetry apart from a few stanzas of Emma Lazarus and Mia Angleo, along with a lewd limerick about the menstrual cycle or the water cycle, or maybe it was recycling . . . In any case, the ever-increasing poetic nescience of Americans makes poetic parody hard. I’m not blaming you. It’s not your fault if no one suggested you read Longfellow’s “Village Blacksmith” and instead gave you a copy of To Shill a Mockingbird. The Orthosphere exists to rectify this and other aspects of our universal miseducation.
Under a cankered chestnut tree
The smithy’s seed now stands;
This Smith, a scrawny man is he,
Except his typist’s hands;
And the notions of his muddled mind
Are shifting as the sands.
His hair is thin, and lank, and damp,
His face is stressed and cowed;
His brow is wet with nervous sweat,
He earns what he’s allowed,
And hunts in vain for a friendly face,
In the furtive, hostile crowd.
Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his keyboard clatter;
You can hear him slurp his coffee sludge,
You can hear him fawn and flatter,
As a man accepts a canapé,
From a hostess on a platter.
And children slinking home from school
Look in his window wide;
They fear to see their future told
In one so nullified.
They mourn to read the prophesy,
Of the man who types inside.
He goes on Sunday not to church,
But stays home with his toys;
He hears but pundits pray and preach,
Knows not his daughter’s voice:
She never sang or spoke because
Her mother made The Choice.
Nor hears he yet that mother’s voice,
Her insults, barbs and lies,
For she left him long years ago,
To elsewhere dogmatize;
Yet with his typist’s hands he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.
Onward in life he trudges;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening it’s blots and smudges;
Something attempted, something failed,
In bed he broods and grudges.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my sorry friend,
For the lesson thou has taught!
Thus in the easy chair of life
We will by fate be caught;
Thus on its cushions lulled to sleep
And at last brough to naught.