Daniel Galef—Featured Poet


The Great Writer

To call him Orphic would be a misnomer;
He moves not stones, but great men’s loyalties.
They call him Bard Reborn, and Second Homer,
And—God knows how—he lives on royalties.

His verse is a reflection of the world—
No—The world itself reflects what he has written.
To view his tapestry of words unfurled
Is then to be immediately smitten.

His latest cover’s cluttered with awards—
They speckle it, like bubos on a body.
The critics, oddly, and the unwashed hordes
For once agree: He’s smart, but never snotty.

His praises ring in Time and in the Herald;
The critics eagerly await what’s next to see.
He’s of his age—defines it—like Fitzgerald,
And all time, like Theogony and The Ecstasy.

Each letter’s placed to say what it must say,
Each picture’s perfect, and each mot is juste.
He waxes high for hours on Hemingway
Then sums up, in a line or two, all Proust.

His past is storied. (He’s the one to story it—
His memoirs garner daily film rights queries.)
He’s just agreed to serve as Poet Laureate
As soon as he has capped his reading series.

Anthologies and textbooks all demand him—
So why is it that I can’t fucking stand him?

Letters to an Editor

When I was in the printing biz,
in magazines (I worked at MS),
under my office door was slipped
a neatly-typed-out MS,
its cover letter curt and snippy,
return address in MS.
And what a scoop! New drug (its doses
prescribed for MS)
a fraud! The source, in bold defiance,
a chemist with a MS.
I showed my boss. “Yeah, right!” she reckoned,
and canned me in a MS.

(For the unabbreviated terms, see Legend near bottom of page.)

Nietzsche and Gorky

Said Friedrich Nietzsche
to Maxim Gorky,
“Do you think my moustache
makes me look dorky?”
“In fact,” said the Realist,
“I think it’s just peachy.”
“If it’s really that bad
then I’ll shave,” replied Nietzsche.

New York Autumn Couplet

The first leaf that falls—
that takes balls.


Dr. Randalls cured hoodlums and vandals,
But his brother, a lawyer, caused scandals
By frequently jailing
The crooks who were ailing.
“You’re trying my patients!” cried Randalls.

Variation on a Parable

Six elephants, each bat-like blind,
Devised a scientific plan
To make up their collective mind
And find what kind of thing is Man.

All felt in turns, that clumsy clan,
That each might new perspective bring.
Unanimous, they found the Man
A flat and messy sort of thing.


How quick the ingenue becomes a hag—
We stars’ false immortality is cursed!
The silver face stays young. The real will sag.
So hurry! Get your Oscar roles in first,

Topical Poem

I saw a line of poetry
Tattooed upon a suntanned knee,
“How permanent,” I thought. (Alas,
No more than print. All flesh is grass.)
The knee was on a model lean,
The model, in a magazine,
Such that I wondered if they’d bother
To license from the verse’s author.
Were I that lucky writer, might
I sue for breach of copyright?
“Your Honor,” I might say, succinct,
“Print is print, and inked is inked!”
I’d fold as soon as cashed, or checked;
No Shylock calling to collect
My debt of flesh. The knees? You keep ’em,
I wouldn’t have the censor bleep ’em
Or stay the meteoric rise
By covering all from heel to thighs:
It won’t make modeling a breeze
To pose with kneepads on your knees.
A promising career’d be shattered!
And, to be honest, I’d be flattered
My verse was chosen to anoint,
With buzzing needle, this blank joint,
As if a bandage well applied
To heal the mind by way of the hide.
That’s a thought the sophists savored
And prides of primping poets favored,
That words can turn the tide of war,
Or heal the heart that’s sad and sore,
Can move the stone, can bow the trees,
Can bring the emperors to their knees—
They called their words a social potion,
Timely, topical as lotion,
Long before they’d ever been
Applied directly to the skin.

“The Great Writer” was first published in Measure; a sonnet-length version appears in Galef’s Imaginary Sonnets; “Nietzsche and Gorky” and “Variation on a Parable” were originally published in Snakeskin; “New York Autumn Couplet” and “Limerick” debuted, respectively, in New York Magazine‘s humor competition and in Light Quarterly (Galef’s first publication).

Legend: Ms. Magazine; manuscript; Mississippi; multiple sclerosis; Master of Science degree; millisecond.

Daniel Galef writes light verse, dark verse, heavy verse (that’s verse with an extra neutron, making it mildly radioactive), and everything in-between . . . as well as fiction, nonfiction, humor, plays, puzzles, and occasionally ransom notes (that’s the most lucrative genre of all, for when the ballads don’t pay the bills). His first book is Imaginary Sonnets, published last year by Word Galaxy/Able Muse Press, containing 70 persona poems from the point of view of various historical figures, mythological characters, and inanimate objects—including Lucrezia Borgia, Wernher von Braun, and a new brand of breakfast taco. Check it out here: danielgalef.com/book/