Friday, August 31, 2012

990. The Countenance of Humpty Dumpty

It's Poetry Friday today, being hosted over at the Poetry For Children blog. To celebrate, here's a new humorous poem featuring an all-too-familiar character in an all-too-familiar setting. Or is it?

The Countenance of Humpty Dumpty
              By Vikram Madan

As Humpty Dumpty, on the wall,
Sat in a cheerless slump
A passerby assumed the worst
And yelled, He’s going to jump!

An anxious crowd assembled and
Begged Humpty change his mind
The King's men and their horses came
(The Press shadowed behind)

They cordoned off the boulevard
Unfurled a safety net
A nervous chatter filled the night,
The tension, thick as sweat

Then Humpty shuffled in his spot
(The crowd shook with unease)
This isn't what you think, he said
I came here … for the breeze

You see, I haven't smiled in years
My countenance is skewed
I thought a dose of fresh air might
Invigorate my mood

For mirth lends me no company
I’m always feeling grim
And in my quest to lighten up
I sat here on a whim

But as he spoke he lost his poise
And toppled off the top
And treaded wind with flailing limbs
Down, down the few-foot drop

A solemn silence hushed the street.
All stared in stunned dismay.
Poor Humpty missed the safety net
(What more was left to say?)

The coroner, to close, declared
(As medics cleared the pile)
Humpty, our friend, is gone but look
At last, he’s cracked a smile!

Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2012 Vikram Madan

Ok, ok - don't twist my arm - I admit I wrote this poem backwards, starting with the ending in mind. Sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do :) .... Happy Poetry Friday!


Thursday, August 30, 2012

991. I Tried To Clone a Dinosaur

Here's an old poem I wrote a while back. Can you tell that it's inspired by 'Jurassic Park' and other mad-cap mad-scientist capers? :)

I Tried To Clone A Dinosaur
     By Vikram Madan

I tried to clone a Dinosaur
From old amber-encrusted drones
But I could not produce much more
Than half-grown bits of skin and bones

And so I built a Time Machine
To head back to Jurassic days
To view first-hand all those unseen
Dinosaurs of the yesterdays

And I came back from this fine trip
Only to find, to my dismay,
Some Dinosaurs stowed on my ship
And breeding in the cargo bay

They looked at me with hungry eyes
I zapped them with my Shrinking Ray
But now that they were all pint-sized
They slipped through cracks and got away

Next time a bug goes scurrying by
Take one close look just to be sure
That it’s indeed an ant or fly
And not a tiny Dinosaur…

Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2002 Vikram Madan


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

992. Poetry Stretch: A Lai

This week's Monday Poetry Stretch was to write a Lai - a "French syllabic verse form consisting of one or more stanza of nine lines with two rhymes", a rhyme scheme of a-a-b-a-a-b-a-a-b and additional restrictions of 5 syllables in the 'a' lines and only 2 syllables in the 'b' line.  All in all, a very concise and tight poetry form, and not easy to write to. Here's a quick, somewhat grim, 'Lai' I slapped together:

Warning: A-lai-ve or Dead

The Vampires arise
Under savage skies
   To seek
A suck-culent prize
Oh, how they despise
   The meek
They've planned your demise
So say your goodbyes
   This week.

Copyright (c) 2012, Vikram Madan

Someone should have told me never to 'Lai'  (all puns intended) ... :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Classic Funny Poems: 'A Nightmare' by W. S. Gilbert

(Once upon a time people actually managed to publish books of light verse. Sadly we've lost our collective sense of poetic humor since then).

The other day, while thumbing through an old book of humorous poems, I came across what-I-thought-was a stunning poem titled 'A Nightmare'. It took me a while to figure out that the unfamiliar-to-me author it was attributed to, one 'WS Gilbert' was none other than the Gilbert from the operatic duo 'Gilbert & Sullivan'. The poem is actually better known as the 'Nightmare Song from Iolanthe', but Sir Gilbert re-published it in a book of poems (Songs of a Savoyard) back around 1894 and I think it's actually a pretty fun and rollicking read as a poem (much better than it is as a song). Here it is in it's entirety for your reading pleasure

Note the way this poem is laid out with long unbroken sentences that contribute a breathlessness and sense of urgency and unease to the poem, which will feel very familiar to anyone who's ever had any kind of nightmare... 


A Nightmare
Poem (and Illustration) by Sir W. S. Gilbert
When you're lying awake with a dismal headache, and repose is taboo'd by anxiety,
I conceive you may use any language you choose to indulge in without impropriety;
For your brain is on fire - the bedclothes conspire of usual slumber to plunder you:
First your counterpane goes and uncovers your toes, and your sheet slips demurely from under you;
Then the blanketing tickles - you feel like mixed pickles, so terribly sharp is the pricking,
And you're hot, and you're cross, and you tumble and toss till there's nothing 'twixt you and the ticking.
Then the bedclothes all creep to the ground in a heap, and you pick 'em all up in a tangle;
Next your pillow resigns and politely declines to remain at its usual angle!
Well, you get some repose in the form of a doze, with hot eyeballs and head ever aching,
But your slumbering teems with such horrible dreams that you'd very much better be waking;
For you dream you are crossing the Channel, and tossing about in a steamer from Harwich,
Which is something between a large bathing-machine and a very small second-class carriage;
And you're giving a treat (penny ice and cold meat) to a party of friends and relations -
They're a ravenous horde - and they all came on board at Sloane Square and South Kensington Stations.
And bound on that journey you find your attorney (who started that morning from Devon);
He's a bit undersized, and you don't feel surprised when he tells you he's only eleven.
Well, you're driving like mad with this singular lad (by the bye the ship's now a four-wheeler),
And you're playing round games, and he calls you bad names when you tell him that "ties pay the dealer";
But this you can't stand, so you throw up your hand, and you find you're as cold as an icicle,
In your shirt and your socks (the black silk with gold clocks), crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle:
And he and the crew are on bicycles too - which they've somehow or other invested in -
And he's telling the tars all the particulars of a company he's interested in -
It's a scheme of devices, to get at low prices, all goods from cough mixtures to cables
(Which tickled the sailors) by treating retailers, as though they were all vegetables -
You get a good spadesman to plant a small tradesman (first take off his boots with a boot-tree),
And his legs will take root, and his fingers will shoot, and they'll blossom and bud like a fruit-tree -
From the greengrocer tree you get grapes and green pea, cauliflower, pineapple, and cranberries,
While the pastry-cook plant cherry-brandy will grant - apple puffs, and three-corners, and banberries -
The shares are a penny, and ever so many are taken by ROTHSCHILD and BARING,
And just as a few are allotted to you, you awake with a shudder despairing -
You're a regular wreck, with a crick in your neck, and no wonder you snore, for your head's on the floor, and you've needles and pins from your soles to your shins, and your flesh is a-creep, for your left leg's asleep, and you've cramp in your toes, and a fly on your nose, and some fluff in your lung, and a feverish tongue, and a thirst that's intense, and a general sense that you haven't been sleeping in clover;
But the darkness has passed, and it's daylight at last, and the night has been long - ditto, ditto my song - and thank goodness they're both of them over!  

Don't you just love the perfect meter and rhyme in this poem!

[Note: To my knowledge the copyright for both this poem, and the accompanying illustration above - also by Sir W. S. Gilbert, is in the public domain]

Sunday, August 26, 2012

993. The Ogre's Meal (or The Toad Not Taken)

Continuing on the bowlderization challenge mentioned in the previous post, heres another parody of another famous Robert Frost poem - The Road Not Taken.

This was a fun parody to produce in that I made the most minimal number of changes to the original poem. I've highlighted the words I changed in grey below (only 22! - and yes, the third stanza is entirely untouched).

Note: the title is an important part of this poem.
The Ogre’s Meal (a.k.a. The Toad Not Taken)
Parody by Vikram Madan

Two toads emerged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not gobble both
And be one gobbler, long I stood
And looked in one as far as I could
And smelled it’s scent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as scowled
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was warty and smelled more foul
Though as for that the passing fowl
Had fouled them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a cuss
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two toads emerged in a wood, and thus -
I took the one more odorous
And that has made all the flatulence.

Parody Copyright © 2012, Vikram Madan


994. Whose Woods These Are

Today's bit of poetry comes from another challenge on David Harrison's blog, prompted by J. Patrick Lewis (current U.S. Children's Poet Laureate) for a form of poetry they call 'First Lines, Bowlderized'. There's a fun set of poems posted on David's site by many well known author's. My humble addition is a take on Robert Frost's well known poem (read the original version here if you're not familiar with it):

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening
Parody by Vikram Madan
Whose woods these are I do not know
The bank foreclosed them long ago
My Ponzi scheme is in arrears
I’m out on bail and laying low

My little website had no peer
The suckers came from far and near
Buy bits of woods and quickly make
The largest returns of the year!

The more I paid the more I raked
But my success was my mistake
I couldn’t help but stop and weep
When Feds denounced me as a flake

My trial is lonely, dark and deep
But I have skeletons to keep
And files to shred before I sleep
And files to shred before I sleep

Parody Copyright (c) 2012, Vikram Madan

Bonus Tip: I learnt from Jane Yolen that both the original and this poem can be sung to the tune of Hernando's Hideaway (see the Pajama Game version here).

Some fun poems

Every once in a while I stumble across some exceptionally fun poems out on the interweb. Here's a couple for your reading pleasure:

  1. Burning Hot Banana by JonArno Lawon (You have to read this one aloud)
  2. I Hate To Ask by Elisabeth Dahl (For all the facebook-fatigued masses)


Saturday, August 25, 2012

995. The Knight And The Dragon

I wrote this poem a few years ago for an online zine that was doing a themed issue on Dragons.

[Note: If the opening line sounds familiar, well yes, it takes inspiration from the opening line of Lewis Carroll's well known poem (from Alice in Wonderland) 'You Are Old, Father William', which you can read in it's entirety on Wikipedia.]

                    The Knight and the Dragon
                            By Vikram Madan

‘You are old,’ said the Knight, as he polished his lance
     ‘And your wings are all tattered and torn
And the ache in your bones surely softens your stance
    And your talons seem dull and well-worn.’

‘You are old,’ said the Knight, as he mounted his steed
     ‘And your eyes are beginning to gloss
And the weight of the years surely makes you knock-kneed
     And your scales are all covered with moss.’

‘You are old,’ said the Knight, as he straightened his shield
     ‘Do your teeth rattle loose in your gums?
And your blood, once so hot, must lie cold and congealed
     Do you get by on more than just crumbs?’

‘You are old,’ said the Knight, as he spurred on his horse
     ‘And your glory lies faded and maimed
But your fate, though much withered, has shown you remorse
     And left you the keys to my fame’

‘You are old,’ said the Knight, as he galloped in fast
     ‘So why bother to swagger and pose?
With my heart just as kind as my courage is vast
     I shall bring a swift end to your woes.’

‘You are old,’ said the Knight, as he readied his blow
     ‘And your breath smells like brimstone and ash
And your fire… still burns?! … Like a hot… volcano!
     So… hot!!…’ And he was gone in a flash.

Copyright (c) 2005 Vikram Madan, All Rights Reserved


996. Captchas

For this week's Poetry Friday, well-known author Douglas Florian had a poem on his blog about captchas, ('captchas' are those weird number/letter combinations you have to decipher and type to prove you are human - read more here) to which I had to comment:

I tried to prove that I was not
A bot, a script, a tool
But I failed so persistently
I felt just like a fool
Is that an 'A'? Or 'T'? Or 'C'
Or 'X' crossed with an 'N'?
This squint-inducing task I'm sure
Is not for mortal men
I refresh, retry, try again
Until my brain unspools
Whoever thought these 'captchas' up
I fear is somewhat cruel ...
Copyright (c) 2012 Vikram Madan, All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 24, 2012

997. In The Back of The 'Fridgerator

Sometimes inspiration can come from the strangest of sources. I was poking in the back of the fridge one day, and thought to myself, 'Wow, this stuff in here is really old and really stale'. Well, the phrase 'Really Old and Really Stale' got stuck in my head because it sounded like the opening line of a poem, which I then just had to sit down and write.

Here's the first version:

 A Love Story by Vikram Madan

Really Old met Really Stale
In the back of the ‘fridgerator
“Love at First Smell!” they declared
Each vowed its love was greater

“You and I shall have such FUNgus”
“Let’s grow mOLD together”

And thus they lived in rotten bliss
Decaying with each other

But then one day a hand reached in
And decomposed the pair
And one was left mourning the loss
Of one no longer there

This tale would be a tragedy
As one sat there and yearned
But the ordeal was not over yet
And the cleansing hand returned!

Before too long the fridge was bare
And scrubbed from well within
And the lovers? Reunited,
In the heart of the compost bin.

Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2012 Vikram Madan, All Rights Reserved

The phrase 'In the Back of the 'Fridgerator' had a nice ring to it and sounded like a refrain that needed repitition within the poem. Here's the second version I wrote, this time with a chantable refrain:

A Love Story by Vikram Madan

Really Old met Really Stale
     In the back of the 'fridgerator
So began this stinky tale
     In the back of the 'fridgerator
Love at First Smell!, they declared
     In the back of the 'fridgerator
Oh, the fun-gus times they shared
     In the back of the 'fridgerator
Growing m-old and mildewy
     In the back of the 'fridgerator
     In the back of the 'fridgerator...

Then one day a hand appeared
     In the back of the 'fridgerator
Did the thing they both had feared
     In the back of the 'fridgerator
Picked one up and split the pair
     In the back of the 'fridgerator
Lonesomeness and sorrow there
     In the back of the 'fridgerator...

Does this tale end in regret
     In the back of the 'fridgerator?
Wait! Mom's not done cleaning yet
     In the back of the 'fridgerator!
When the scrubbing was all done
     In the back of the 'fridgerator
The two once more were joined as one
     But away from our 'fridgerator...

Really Stale met Really Old
     In the heart of the compost pile
Henceforth rotting uncontrolled
  Gladly rotting uncontrolled
   Together rotting uncontrolled
     In the heart of the compost pile.

Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2012 Vikram Madan, All Rights Reserved

I was feeling partial towards the second version, but a ten-year old I tested it on found it to be (sadly) too repetitive. What do you think?  Does one work better than the other? (Right now the first is headed into my upcoming poetry collection while the second is destined for the reject drawer ...)

998. Through Deep, Dark and Lovely Woods

Here's a poem I wrote a few years ago for an online zine for a provided prompt of 'Deep, Dark and Lovely Woods'. The phrase was no doubt taken from Robert Frost's 'Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening' and so I threw in a few subtle references to Frost's work inside the poem. See if you can spot them.

Through Deep, Dark and Lovely Woods
By Vikram Madan

Despair not, O Weary Pilgrim
   I too made the same mistake
Stopped and fell under the spell of
   Easy wind and downy flake
Took a path that was less traveled
   Through deep, dark and lovely woods
Falling snow erased my footprints
   I too was then lost for good…

Daylight gave in to the darkness
   As did fortitude to fear
Fear to fright and fright to terror
   When those voices reached my ear
Vile and vicious, harsh and hostile,
   Reeking of pain and torment
Surely mortal tongues might never
   Harbor so much ill-intent…

As the sounds grew ever closer
   As my heart beat louder still
I saw shadows in the darkness
   Lurking, lurching down a hill
Rough and ragged raspy breathing
   Shuffles of demented feet
Hints of claws and fangs and maws and
   Whiffs of rotten, spoiling meat…

Was that wind that tugged my collar
   As I turned around to flee?
Were those roots that sent me tripping?
   Thorns that dug into my knee?
Could I be but more uncertain
   Were those rocks that struck my head?
There is little I remember
   Past that final sense of dread…

Despair not, O Weary Pilgrim
   Even if prospects look grim
You too have been well surrounded
   Chances of escape are slim
Heed my counsel, curb your anguish
   When the end comes, do not fuss
Once your misery is over
   You too shall be one of us…
Copyright (c) 2006 Vikram Madan, All Rights Reserved

I remember I spent a month on and off back then tinkering with this poem trying to get it just right and was quite happy with the end result... 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

999. In Which All Planning Comes to Naught

Another day, another challenge. Over at The Miss Rumphius Effect blog is a recurring Monday Poetry Challenge. This week's challenge was to create a 'trimeric' poem. A trimeric is a complex poetic form where subsequent stanzas repeat lines from the first stanza (what can I say - poets like challenging themselves). You can read more about the 'trimeric' here.

The original form, as conceived, is not a rhyming form, but I thought to try my own hand at a rhyming variation of it. Here's my sorta-rhyma-trimeric:


Now all through the summer I begged and I whined
In hopes that my parents would make up their mind
But parents have reasons to do what they do
And that's why I sit here and grumble and stew.

In hopes that my parents would make up their mind
I begged and cajoled and I craved and I pined
Until they said, 'Yes, we are almost inclined - 

But parents have reasons to do what they do
And that's why we're saying - No! No pup for you!'

And with that they sent all my planning askew

And that's why I sit here and grumble and stew
For now there's no dog who I hoped to have 'chew'
The homework I shirked, which I'll now have to do.

Copyright (c) 2012 Vikram Madan

In retrospect, I have to say this is a hard form to work with, and I compounded the challenge for myself by trying to rhyme it, which seems to have somewhat constrained the expression of the idea within...

1000. Ominous Sign

Poking around the web the other day, I stumbled across the blog of David L. Harrison, a well known children's book author. David runs a 'word of the month' challenge where he invites people to submit poems based on a single word. August's word was 'LINE'. I couldn't pass up the challenge and here's the poem I came up with in short order:

              OMINOUS SIGN
               by Vikram Madan

I was born in the grip of an ominous sign
That has scalded my life with its evil design
It's a fate worse as any that fate can consign
It's a bane to be weathered till stars realign
I have traveled the world with this burden of mine
I have sought out the wise in the rarest of shrines
Though they poked at my toes and they prodded my spine
They had nothing to offer to curb my decline
So from six in the morning to past when I dine
I must go right on living as if it's all fine
But I know, in my heart, it's a matter of time
When my curse reappears and ensures it assigns
Me to wait, yet again, in the slow-moving line
In the slow-moving line, in the slow-moving line
Wherever men queue up to await or combine
That's where I'll be standing, in the slow-moving line…

Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2012 Vikram Madan

This poem should really have been called 'Slow-Moving Line' but that would have given the ending away. Somedays, it feels like I'm living this poem, especially when I'm at the airport. :)

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