Before the Olio



2:     I thought you had said you hadn't time for this sort of thing anymore.


1:     That's true.


2:     And yet--


1:     And yet here I am.


2:     So you've made the time?


1:     No, that would be inaccurate--let us say that I have hazarded the time. I've been gambling with time for quite a while now, pushing the stakes just a bit higher each time, playing for the greater victory. When I was a child, I remember putting together kites in March. The crosspiece of each kite was a thin strip of wood which had to be bent through an arc of sixty degrees. More often than not, this little piece of kindling aspiring to flight would fail of its dream and snap in one's hands during the bending--


2:     Hmm, overdone. Next you'll tell me about tempering swords.


1:     (Chuckling) No, much too phallic an image. But, I see you are as immune to poetry as ever.


2:     Bad poetry.


1:     OK, OK, no more flowery metaphors--it was rather bad, wasn't it?


2:     Yes. And in answer to your earlier accusation, quite the contrary--I rather love poetry.


1:     Oh? Do give me a poem then.


2:     I already did, and you didn't like it.


1:     Really? Pity. Did you like the poems I gave you?


2:     If not to be born would be best for man

         (As auld W. H. has tried to say),

         The second best is a catch as catch can.


         In marathon races I oftentimes ran

         And asked of the children I passed at play

         If not to be born would be best for man.


         Young children make the best of running fans;

         They gaily try to pace you on your way

         The second best is a catch as catch can


         Who smiles and smirks and mocks your sweat with san-

         Itary glee until at last you pray

         If not to be born would be best for man


         That this smiling shit should be told the plan!

         But pain is glory so forgiving you say:

         If not to be born would be best for man

         The second best is a catch as catch can


1:     A bit sadistic, don't you think? And a villanelle is such a constraining form.


2:     Thank you for once again coming up with the right compliment at the right time.


1:     (Smiling sadly) I love you, too.


2:     I don't recall having said I loved you.


1:     I don't recall you ever having said it either.


2:     Isn't it better left up to the reader?


1:     Touché. How about when it's 'I don't love you.'?


2:     Touché


1:     The point of the poem is that which by na-

         Ture must fail of its purpose, for if it

         Succeed, perforce the work was in no way

         Needed; rather a sign, "Do not spit,"

         For instance, would have done the job with much

         Less obfuscation. Certainly Marvel

         Would never have gotten away with such

         A poem as To His Willing Mistress. Hell,

         Who would want to read about success when

         There are poets out there pouring their pain

         On paper at whom we snicker and then

         By contrast, we sense our personal gain

            and with a smug and well-adjusted grin

            commit their trash to the nearest waste bin.


2:     Well... is that condemnation or forgiveness?


1:     Probably best you not know, that the sonnet may proceed by its own premise.


2:     Nice--very in character--but I can't talk all night.


1:     I can, but I'd rather not.


2:     (Smiling for the first time) Tempter.





                                                                        Christopher J. Cramer

                                                                        December 1984