Alex Steelsmith


Trojan Hind-Sight

“Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”

We should have been wary of what
was concealed in its generous gut,
but the horse was a gift
and they might have been miffed
if we’d peeked in its mouth, or its butt.

A Runcible Goose

“What a runcible goose you are!”
—Edward Lear, from “Mr. and Mrs. Discobbolos”

Is it large as a turkey and fat as a grouse?
Is it kept in a coop or a barn or a house, or LOOSE,
A Runcible Goose?

Is it silly, inane, and a bit of a loon?
Are its faculties sharp as a runcible spoon, or OBTUSE,
A Runcible Goose?

Have its physical attributes ever been clear?
Was its likeness depicted by Tenniel, Lear, or SEUSS,
A Runcible Goose?

Does it differ from normal, non-runcible geese?
Are its eyes a cerulean blue, or cerise, or CHARTREUSE,
A Runcible Goose?

Does it fashion a nest in a runcible nook?
Does it forage for runcinate leaves by a brook, or SLUICE,
A Runcible Goose?

If the species were threatened, would anyone care?
Is it seldom observed and statistically rare, or PROFUSE,
A Runcible Goose?

Does it toddle about with a runcible gander
Who goes by the name of Maurice, Alexander, or BRUCE,
A Runcible Goose?

Is its nature obscure, like the Akond of Swat?
Would the sight of it frighten an innocent tot, or PAPOOSE,
A Runcible Goose?

Does it nurture an egg with a runcible yolk?
Does it nibble on seedlings of maple, or oak, or SPRUCE,
A Runcible Goose?

Are there runcible goslings that follow its lead,
And that only a runcible mother could feed, or PRODUCE,
A Runcible Goose?

Is a runcible runt at the rear of the pack,
Like the car at the back of a train on a track, or CABOOSE,
A Runcible Goose?

Would it ever have dinner with you, or with me?
If you gave it a choice, would it rather have tea, or JUICE,
A Runcible Goose?

When it lies in its lair, does it study Kabbalah
And ponder Jehovah, or Brahma, or Allah, or ZEUS,
A Runcible Goose?

Does a concept of Being exist in its brain?
Are its thoughts esoteric, hermetic, arcane, or ABSTRUSE,
A Runcible Goose?

When it rests in its nest, does it find it’s inclined
To a Neoplatonic Awareness, or Mind, or NOUS,
A Runcible Goose?

Does it linger when winter approaches, or go?
Does it hibernate under a blanket of snow, or VAMOOSE,
A Runcible Goose?

Does it parler franҫais? Does it Deutsch sprechen too?
When it’s flying away, does it bid you adieu, or TSCHÜSS,
A Runcible Goose?

A writer and fine artist, Alex Steelsmith has coauthored three nonfiction books and more than 200 articles that have appeared in various publications, including USA Today. His artwork has been shown in many museums and galleries, and is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.