can make an ordinary person wish
the human brain had never been hard-wired
for sound. Like snails and rattlesnakes and fish,
we wouldn’t be genetically required
to listen, stupefied, to so much blare,
or need to plug our nonexistent ears
against the churning drivel in the air,
with gusts to sixty in election years.
Spring, and Especially Fall
(With apologies to Gerard Manley Hopkins)
Margaret, are you gagging
since your body started sagging?
You can’t believe the man who
so adored you dumped you, can you?
Ah! as your wrinkles burgeon
you recall that plastic surgeon
with his fake before-and-af-
ter photographs that made you laugh.
But it’s different now. Not half
so comical. Unfair, in fact,
the way the deck is clearly stacked
against you. Why, you never dreamt
of withering! You felt exempt.
Yet now the things you’ve loved the most
(especially Margaret) are toast.
“Yesterday? At the mall? I bought
a book of Emily Dickinson? For my mom?”
—overheard at TGI Friday’s
There is a moment, in the middle teens,
when virtually every sentence ends
on an upward curl, as if it really means
to be a question—or at least pretends
to entertain an element of doubt—
like this: I started early? Took my dog?
implying that I may have ventured out
exceptionally late, to take a jog
without the dog, or anyone else, along.
And if I add: and visited the sea?—
I’m hinting that of course I could be wrong
about this “sea” thing, ha-ha, you know me.
It’s evidently hard for them to say
the thing they mean, without a little cue
for feedback, for the understood Okay;
or, possibly, they talk the way they do
because they are the representatives
of a long-out-of-date civility—
these gentle souls who speak in tentatives,
and always dwell in possibility.
First Day in London
Notice how my voice has changed!
My vowels have broadened overnight;
Comes forth my syntax re-arranged
And all my r’s are out of sight.
I’ll chat you up, I’ll mind the gap,
I’ll not forget my bumbershoot;
I’d love to stay till Boxing Day—
My haversack is in the boot!
Let’s find a pub in Leicester Square;
We’ll down a pint, or maybe two,
Then toss a busker half a quid
And lose it on the Bakerloo.
I know. I know. It’s jolly clear
You’ll never take me for a Brit—
My accent? Just a tribute band
That’s longing for a cover hit.
Sonnet in Defense of the Much-maligned Spondee
“No such foot exists in English,”
Tell them otherwise? They’ll whistle
Even if you’re heading north to
Driving through a freezing blizzard
Stuffed inside a green and yellow
Fighting off a virus plus a
They will still be adamant—but
Don’t insist their hocus pocus
Even though they know they may be
Don’t expect that they’ll admit it.
Just relax and it’ll happen,
Could it take another decade?
They will say, “How silly of me,
(Will they add they’re very sorry?
On the Other Hand
(Two poems that could go either way)
“An ambiguous sentence, by accident or design, is difficult
to parse syntactically, and therefore supports no fixed
and final semantic or pragmatic interpretation.”
—Psycholinguistics Glossary, Derek J. Smith, ed.
I. I saw her duck.
I saw her duck
where the Winnipeg flows,
riding the current
in regal repose
with taffeta flaps
between his toes,
a golden clothespin
instead of a nose.
Across his back
his waterproof clothes
went from copper to gold
to vermilion to rose.
I saw her duck
and cover her face
as the ball kazoomed
past second base.
It screamed above her,
splitting the air,
making her question
why she was there.
She dropped her glove
without even blinking,
walked off the field
and took up drinking.
II. The chicken is ready to eat.
The chicken is ready to eat;
it’s covered with Sauce Marguerite,
looking très débonnaire
with its legs in the air
and paper rosettes on its feet.
The chicken is ready to eat
his delectable afternoon treat;
we’ll toss him some seed,
but will not overfeed
with an anthropomorphic conceit.
“First Day in London” and “Sonnet in Defense of the Much-maligned Spondee” were first published, respectively, in Free Verse and The Atlanta Review. “Always Questions” is from a group of several poems awarded first place in The Ledge 2000 Poetry Competition.
Marilyn L. Taylor, former Poet Laureate of the state of Wisconsin (2009 and 2010) and the city of Milwaukee (2004 and 2005), is the author of six poetry collections, including Going Wrong (Parallel Press, 2009). Her award-winning poems and essays have appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Poetry, The American Scholar, Measure, and in the recent Random House anthology titled Villanelles. More recently, Taylor was named a finalist in the 2016 X.J. Kennedy Parody Contest sponsored by Able Muse Review, and was named the winner of the Margaret Reid Prize in the 2015 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. Taylor taught for 15 years for the English Department and the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has facilitated independent poetry workshops throughout Wisconsin and across the country. She also served for five years as a contributing editor for The Writer magazine, where her column on craft appeared bimonthly.
Taylor moved from Milwaukee to Madison, Wisconsin in 2012, where she continues to write, and to teach under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Continuing Education programs and Lawrence University’s Bjorklunden Seminar Center.