Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Poetry

My father ז''ל loved the work of Don Marquis.

For the uninitiated, archy is a cockroach and free verse poet, who roams the newspaper offices of the The New York Evening Sun after everybody has gone for the day. He wrote by hurling himself headfirst onto the keys of an old fashioned typewriter. Hence, no caps. (Until the day he inadvertently landed on the CAPS LOCK key, but that's for another time...)

Here's one of my favorite selections:

the lesson of the moth

By Don Marquis, in "archy and mehitabel," 1927

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself



BLD said...

that poem is WAYY too long to read

G6 said...


It's guys like you that make getting somebody to sign up for Maseches Shabbos for a siyum so difficult!

ProfK said...

Sigh, the perils of a sound-bite world.

Haven't thought about Archie and Mehitable in years, but I loved them way back when. Thanks for posting this--I think I'll go back and enjoy a re-read.

BLD said...

i sign up for maseches shabbosim all the time (all 24 prakim!)
...i was only messing

efrex said...

I've been an Archy & Mehitabel fan since I first read that poem in one of my school readers some *mumblemumble* years ago. I wonder, however, if you could get away with some of the racier Mehitabel-centered poems nowadays...

Quick trivia fact: there have been a number of attempts to adapt the characters for stage and screen, including a briefly-lived Broadway musical version called "Shinbone Alley" with material written by a then-unknown comic writer named Mel Brooks.

Oh, and Shabbos? Please; real men (or women, as the case may be) sign up for Keilim! :)

Baked Lecho Dodi said...

Someone is using my BLD name - unauthorized.

jill said...

baked lecha dodi's
he has the same style as you, so what's the difference? you don't post enough, anyway. and he is all caps

G6 said...

Baked Lecho Dodi -
I can't imagine who would be so cowardly as to use your pseudonym in posting a comment and I am sorry this happened to you.
Readers please note: BLD is not Bake Lecho Dodi.
Insist on the original.
Accept no imitations.
Imposter: an apology is in order.

Baked Lecha Dodi said...

will the real Baked Lecha Dodi please stand up?

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