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A Selection of Poetry

By Gary B. Larson

bullet If Only Calendars Were King--and Days Went On Forever
bullet TheDefenseBudget Blues: Tanks but No Tanks
bullet Homes to Houses in One Easy Lesson
bullet Flash Garden Saves Safeway Lot
bullet And Smelling Tulips On the Starboard Side

If OnlyCalendars Were King--And Days Went on Forever

Last year, I'm told, the kingdom went kaput--
But not in so many words.
It was here--and then it wasn't:
    Life abounded--
    and kids played with frogs and sticks.
Moonshadows cast their ancient spell
    upon neighbors playing kick the can.
And barbecues accentuated the air
    of cul-de-sacs.
Across bridges and byways
manufactured movement carried unfamiliar faces
    to places of the daily grind.
    to momentary visions of unsurpassed pleasure.
    to unchecked money lending and spending.
In canyons of downtown wilderness--
    Typewriters clicked.
    Doors made open and shut cases.
    Hierarchies sterilized free expression.
    This car bumper dented that car bumper.
Elsewhere in the city--
Deciduous steeples shaded tight-knit rows:
    of personalized castles of protection.
    of edible greens and yellows.
    of words and pictures residing on granite shelves.
And then:
    A site of our supposed defenses
    was struck
    by an unliving but wild
    creation of
    our intelligence.
And everything died:
Too few had done too little too late.

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TheDefenseBudget Blues: Tanks but No Tanks

Golden-green galoshes
in the snow
        went splat
on top of the manhole
that covered the depths
        of human waste.

Everyone stared
        at the model in the window.
        "That waist ain't human,"
they said in unison.
And the man in the peacoat and felt hat
        walked away shaking his head:
        "It's near Christmas,
        and there are too many toy models
        to play with."

They were all standing in lines
        and on freeways,
        at checkout counters
        and in typewriter keyboards
awaiting the long-awaited arrival
of letters that signify
        one's own silk pajamas
        with people without shoes.

Nuh-nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh.
"I can't get no!" Nuh, nuh, nuh. "Satisfaction!" Nuh, nuh, nuh.
        "Oh shaddup, liver lips. Don't you know
        that money can't buy you love?"

With a microphone between his legs,
Mick told the peanut vendor,
        "Hey, you, get offa my cloud."
But the holiday spirit lost its cork:
        The pumpkin raised
        its crusty head,
and took aim at the organ grinder,
        knocked the chimp off his shoulder
        and made mincemeat
        of the so-called poet.

"Be thankful that you
        can be thankful,"
said the turkey with envy.
"Give and I will receive,"
        said the stereo component.
And the remote-controlled VCR
got wrapped up in red magnetic tape.

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Homes toHouses in One Easy Lesson

The flour mill on top of Cherry Hill
burned to the ground yesterday.

It was the day the new year began,
        and union leaders had said workers could stay away.

But gray Samuel McGovern didn't listen. He was alone
        and had nothing to do--
        so he went to the mill
        as he had done
        since Ruth left his world
after 30 years.

He was in the machine shop when it started,
repairing flywheels and switches
        and making things work.

His foreman had dropped by

but left in a hurry:
        He went to get drunk;
        he didn't want to face
        the future and fates
        of the workers he once knew as friends.

"Too bad about that," said the chairman of the board.
"Oh, it's too bad," said the mayor.
"Yes, it's too bad," said the president of Cherry Hill First National.
"I agree. It really is too bad," said the developer
        of the proposed Cherry Hill Mall.
"I hate to sound redundant, but it is too bad,"
        said Nickerson of Nickerson's' Cherry Hill Realty.

On January 2, papers were filed
for a new development.
It was to be Cherry Hill Estates:
        "Get Away from It All," the slogan would say.
And commuters-to-be
        would come in droves.

Portstown was just
        20 minutes away.
"Our Empire's Financial Hub," its promoters called it.
But the briefcase carriers hated it
        and would be happy to move away:
Portstown neighborhoods
        were old and dark,
        and undesirables lived there.

Mill workers without jobs
        soon lost their homes
        and moved to Portstown.
The powerful cried, "Arson!" And Samuel McGovern was pulled
        from his hospital bed...
He was burned again
with the third degree.

The flywheel fixer took the blame:
and the bankers, developers and their lawyers
        lay at home in hammocks
      --and were happy.

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FlashGarden Saves Safeway Lot

The steering wheel blares at the driver:
        "Get your hands off me, honky."

The driver ignores the blast
and turns around, instead,
        just in time
        to see the curb
        as his tires roll through
the viburnum davidi and Oregon grape
planted there.

"Now I've done it," says the driver,
        taking a break
        and smashing the pedal
        to the floor.
"Woooooooooaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, horsepower!"
        he says.

"We're getting really tired of this,"
        say the berries falling from the grape bush.
"Same here,"
        agree the berries
        still clinging barely
to the shrub.

Mother Nature has few kind words
        for parking lot forests.
Scattered across
the wide, open asphalt fields,
        little oases
        crop up.
Heartbroken branches, soiled dirt
        and downtrodden cedar chips
give a poor impression
of evergreen jungles.

 "Well, at least they're not plastic,"
        says the grocery store manager.
"Here, buy some petunias and marigolds
      --on sale now--
        and place them
        in this whiskey barrel
        on your porch.
You, too, can go native."

But the Chevy station wagon
        does not hear or see.
        It flies right past
        and empties its
        2-year-old, 8-year-old and 30-year-old cargo
alongside a stand of flowering cherries.

"Ouch," yelps the driver with a twig in his eye.
"I can't see no forest, let alone a tree!"
        His well-trained kids play leapfrog across the ivy.

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And SmellingTulips on the Starboard Side

He was sailing along
the southern shore
when his oven overheated
        and burned his snorkel to a crisp.

But he didn't care; he was wearing crimson,
        and he felt like dancing, instead...
        with the first 9-foot mermaid
        that should appear
on the horizon.

"My horizon girl," he would say,
        before changing his clothes
        and finding the right hat
to yank from the chipmunks
that had boarded his vessel
when the lookout was empty.

The chipmunks could not speak,
        but if they could they would
        have much to tell.
Not about acorns and twigs and 2-ton cats
but about the trouble with twilight--
        and all the unlighted bows and sterns
        that no one could see:
"The nuts aren't all in the trees."

"I'm leaving now,"
        the captain would say.
And he left
        but not forever.
His crew of nine
        expected him back
        to tell a story
        about mending shirts with one hand.

 For the captain had but four fingers,
        one thumb and five stubs.
The shark he once sought
was not eager
to spend its days
        in front of movie cameras
        held by stockbrokers
who make treks to the wilderness
        by watching drive-in movies.

The captain:
        He took a bite of commerce,
got eaten alive
        and went back to making love
        to the wind and the waves.
He cared more for the mist
        than the must.

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Poetry created in the 1980s. Website maintained by  Gary B. Larson of Port Townsend, Washington,

Updated Jan. 19, 2022.