Friday, March 20, 2020


I was going to post this on The Write Way; but when I got to the composition page, I thought I might wreck something. So, it's here.

I came to the topic of trochee by way of a poem that intrigues. It appeared in a newspaper twenty years ago. Coming to it recently, I wanted to see why it worked so well. I cannot give it in full since it is not mine, but it is possible to use part of it in a study. I share what I've learned about the meter.

Trochee presents a problem, at least for me. Trochee is a meter composed of a stress, then an unstressed syllable. The name comes ultimately from the Greek word, wheel, or literally, a running foot. The meter is said to run fast because, ending with an unstressed syllable, it provides an unbroken continuity into the next line. It can run faster than iamb. Poe's The Raven runs fast:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

Trochee is a lesser used meter because it is not natural to speech. However, a line might be used to change the mood of part of the poem. When used as the principal meter, it produces a poem of hopelessness, despair, ruin. This is caused by the falling rhythm (stressed, followed by an unstressed, syllable). This can be seen in The Raven. The problem for me is the combination of speed and helplessness. When reading aloud, does one care to race to the next line of a poem whose theme is despair? It depends on the construction of the poem. Below, the first three lines probably should be read as one line. The same for the next two.

The somber nature of trochee answered an important question about the poem recently read. I didn't know it was trochee; I don't pay much attention to meter when I write poetry. The poet who began the following lines, however, did pay much attention. (I marked the first line as iambic, until it became obvious this was incorrect).

What place is this?
You'll remember Captain Jean-Luc Picard
asking dazed and confused.
And I wander this small planet Earth
as he roamed Kathaan, in a dream.

The opening lines draws our attention. They are melancholic, and maybe should be read slowly. Picard is confused, and his walk is dreamlike. The speaker, too, wanders. He does not walk briskly or run. Finally, he compares Picard's action to his own.

(I know little about Star Trek).

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Career Day Confab

A group of high schoolers milled about the set of the Wicca Horror Show. Having chosen writing from a list of field trip options, they hoped for tips on making it in the business. Their teachers hoped for improved spelling and grammar from the deal. Since this age group knew more about Dancing With the Stars than Hemingway, Hollywood seemed the path of least resistance.

The suits bandied "creative writing" about, but seemed a little clueless about who wrote the actual episodes. They scared up a couple of strange ladies: one in white, and another in a gold robot outfit.

Wicca moseyed up to a boy who had his back turned, placed a finger on his neck. "Bing bang, li'wanna!"

"Translation:" said the gold woman. "That is how easily I could have killed you, Little Wonder."

"Queenie, you overthink everything!" Wicca made goggle eyes. "Give them a break. Now then, kids, what do you want to know about my show?"

"You have a show?" a girl asked.

After an awkward lull, Queenie said, "Cultural engagement failure. The show is targeted at the twenties and thirties demographic. Beyond that age, viewership declines according to the statistical decay function: y equals y-initial times e to the kt power."

Wicca had a hand over her face, peeked through to end the calculus lecture. "They're here about writing, already. I doubt if they even work those dosiki puzzles."

"You mean sudoku?" a boy asked.

"Same thing--it's all Japanese to me. Give me an idea what you guys watch."

"Kelly Clarkson," offered another girl.

Wicca did a tongue razzy. "Never heard of him."

"So. . . ." ventured a boy who wore the number 9. "Do you write the shows?"

"What writing? I conjure Team Dan capers from the Outworld via my glass skull."

"But what about the Sherlock Holmes stories?" insisted number 9.

"That's here on Earth, of course. I conjure him from the nineteenth century." Wicca squinted conspiratorially. "Don't tell him I got the Ripper."

The kids looked uneasily to the bot woman to explain.

"To use her quaint aphorism, she essentially 'ate' Jack the Ripper, consuming him at the quantum level to power her time travel."

"Queenie is magic-challenged," Wicca said. "She calls it 'native force', or whatever they call it in Trek Wars. But she's wrong about that--I'm asymptotic!"

"Asymptomatic," Queenie corrected. "An asymptote denotes a point of non-existence for a function caused by forbidden division by zero. These can occur vertically, horizontally, tangentially. . . ."

"Ya ya, forget it, Queenie--they're going glassy eyed!"

The kids huddled while the show people debated derivatives versus crystal balls.

"That lady crazy," said number 9. "But she sure is cool."

Monday, March 16, 2020

           Maman's House

      Come into maman's house
      and witness
      the transmigration of furniture.
      See the bureaus swirl
      into this room and that.
      I'd show you my treasure
      from the case
      but we'll have to settle with
      these cookbooks from the shelf.
      Watch, there goes my desk
      and here comes a bed.
      Don't stand too long
      in one place.
      Yes, let's be gone before
      we're caught in
      the whirlwind.

The Nick Nuko U.S.S. Enterprise Tour

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Junkyard Halloween

Fred Sanford thrilled to the Wednesday night fights, throwing hooks and jabs from his easy chair. "Git 'im, Dumpster! Stretch 'im out!" Despite the good vibes, he switched off the set when his son Lamont came home from his date. "Hey--did you pick up that old water heater over on DeBusey?"

"Oops." Lamont's grin leaked away. "I got sidetracked helpin' Rollo pick out a leisure suit."

"Big dummy! You done messed around an' let the gobbage man git it!"

Raps at the door provided Lamont a convenient dodge. Two attractive brunettes waited there: one in some kind of Elvira dress, and the other channeling Lily Munster. "Wait a minute, I know you--it's Wicca, isn't it. You had this woman in a gold body suit pretendin' to be a robot."

"Queenie," Wicca said, "queen of the Bot Star Empire."

The other woman's birdlike eyes glowed yellow in the dark; contacts, Lamont figured. "Who's she supposed to be?"

"I am Cambris, impertinent mortal."

Lamont laughed. "I'm guessin' vampire. Come on in, ladies."

Fred trundled around the sofa. "It's that witch woman again. Y'all still workin' on your jive dictionary?"

"Not this time." Wicca led Cambris to the indicated spot on the sofa. "Queenie is the one who's jive challenged. Cambris wanted to check out the TV dimension. She thinks Fred is. . . .what was that quaint expression?"

"Adrift in maundery steers yon captain his ship, likened to the maladroit laggard loathly holding course."

"Laggard?" Fred started wheeling his fist. "How 'bout I lag one o' these 'cross yo lips?"

Cambris hissed and bared fangs.

"Whoa!" Fred clutched his heart and staggered about, the other arm milling aimlessly. "This is it, Lizbeth! Countess Dracula done come to collect! The Grim Reaper contracted out!"

Lamont took hold of him. "What's all the hoo-ha, Pop? She's only wearin' a costume."

As for Queenie previously, the word baffled Cambris. "What is this 'hoo-ha' of which you speak, Son of Sanford?"

Wicca busily thumbed her pad's stored memory, as this era had no real internet. "I think it's short for 'hullabaloo'."

"Whatever," Lamont huffed. "Why are you insultin' my dad?"

"Don't pop a rivet, Monty." Wicca airily brushed it aside. "She's saying Fred has a potential gold mine if he'd get up from the TV once in awhile. This dump reminds her of mausoleums she once haunted."

Fred scowled. "This broad some kinda poet--Shakespeare in a wig an' a dress."

The object of his pique glided to a tumbled corner display and hefted a vase. "Ah, such over-rained mottlement. I shall take it to Castle Rotbone, there to augment its inundant decrepitude."

Sensing a sale, Fred was all smiles. "A lady of discriminatin' taste. You can have it for fifty bucks."

When Cambris moved other junk aside, the clatter set off a noise-activated bird in a cage, who flapped and chirped with noisesome abandon. She whirled on it with a snarl and blazing eyes.

"Nothin' to worry about," Lamont said. "That's just some electronic hoodoo."

"Forty bucks!" Fred enthused. Seeing she had no interest, he added, "Or you can haunt somebody else's mausoleum."

While examining the vase, Cambris said, "My inqualmious peace is unshaken, nurseling merchant. Spare us this vegetant acritude, and explain what manner of currency is called 'bucks'."

"Got it covered." Wicca counted out the greenbacks to a once again smiling Fred.

Lamont stuffed hands in pockets, glancing at both visitors."Does she always talk that way?"

Wicca rolled eyes. "Ever since the Crusdaes--whatever that was. We never had them in the Outworld."

"Well," Fred said, counting out the bills yet again, "y'all come back some time, and be sure to bring your purse. Look here, Shakespeare, let me worry 'bout runnin' my empire."

"I fail to summon the requisite misericordia," Cambris enjoined, "for your discommodious servitude to the talking box. It is the underlayment to inebriety." So saying, she sailed regally to the door, followed by Wicca, who turned and spread hands in bewilderment.

"Take that!" Fred crowed in mock victory, shaking a fist. "And a couple o' these!" He boxed the air. "Too early for this Halloween jive!"

Lamont remained somber. "I don't know, Pop. See that bureau mirror over there? She never reflected in it."