John Ridland


Po Biz
After Louis Simpson (“Po Biz”) and Irving Berlin (the rest of it)

There’s no business like Po business
Like no business I know
Everything about it is appealing
Though the books are always in the other aisle
Nowhere else you get that sneaky feeling
When you are stealing
Somebody’s style

There’s no people like Po people
They smile when you are low
Everybody told you you would not go far
And then you published and how right they are
Next day on your dust jacket they stick a star:

to Cost
and far below!

The prizes, the Festivals, the book-tours, the shops
The critics that will kick you when you’re down
The headaches, the heartaches, the butt-aches, the chops
The friend that tells you you’re a clueless clown
The opening page that lays your heart out flat
The closing when the reader’s hand goes Splat!

There’s no business like Po business
Like no business I know
You get the word before your reading’s starting
Your MFA adviser put you down
On top of that, your wife texts you she’s parting
Your pencil’s broken, you typewrite on

There’s no people like Po people
They smile when they punch low
Even with an Ode you know will never sell
Until a sheet of ice has covered Hell
You’d change it in a minute to a Villanelle
So’s to go on with the Po––Biz.
So let’s go Edgar Allen Poe!


Lemuel Gulliver’s Travel Guide: Beds

Lilliput’s were the worst—pads seventy deep.
“Here, great Man Mountain, lay ye doon and sleep.”
The fake Scots accent was as hard to stomach
As every lump and bump and tuft and hummock.

Brobdingnag looked, at first, to be the best:
“There’s your bed, little lad—my mistress’ breast.”
As night wore on, her parfumerie wore off—
Sweat stink to heaven—who cares if the flesh is soft?

Laputa’s famed Academy of Science
Offered accommodations in compliance
With regulations—“Just fill in this form”—
Mattress, bed, blanket, pillow—like a dorm.

The only bed worth sleeping on I saw
Was the wise Houyhnhnms’ crib of fresh-cut straw.
I sank into it, though my allergies
Meant after every snore I gave a sneeze.

John Ridland was born in London, raised in California. Taught English and creative writing at University of California, Santa Barbara, 1961–2005. Recent publications: Hudson Review, Elegy for My Aunt, Happy in an Ordinary Thing. Translations: from Middle English: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; from Hungarian: Sándor Petöfi; Sándor Márai; Miklós Radnóti.