105. Of Coffee and Castaways: Five Poems

Dirge to Poor Verse

Alas! I suffer from this awful curse.

No matter how I try it always seems

I simply cannot write successful verse

And poetry is just an empty dream.

Pen bleeding ink, my fingers sore, I write

As crumpled papers clutter up the floor.

The wet ink glistens in the fading light;

I scratch out lines of verse—one paper more.

My epics are not epic, just absurd.

My limericks are pretty bad, I think.

My sonnets are the worst you ever heard

And all my free verse hardly worth the ink.

I hate to say it, but I think this shows

That I ought really just to write in prose.


Lamentation of a Tired Student

As ages pass this wretched class

Drags on and on till hope is gone

And joy departs from students’ hearts.

Then in the text I turn the next

Redundant page. Words stale with age

Stare up at me. But all I see

Are blots of ink. I cannot think,

For in my skull these lessons dull

Collect like dust: a mental rust

To choke and blind my drowning mind.


Ode on a China Cup

A gilt-rimmed vessel, lustrous pearly white.

Within the halo of the rim we see

The glint of coffee, dark as velvet night

Or possibly the amber gleam of tea.

Upon its side are painted roses red

And lilies gleam the shade of fallen snow:

A garden grown in fragile glass instead

Of earth from which such blooms most often grow.

The handle curves, its gentle form a grace,

A charm, a strong and undulating limb.

As airy as a piece of twisted lace,

Its splendid curve outstretched from base to rim.

A fine cup—but the truth of it remains:

The beauty is in what the cup contains!


The Coffee Song

O coffee, sweet dark nectar of the bean!

O wondrous draught of heady midnight black!

Thou art a staff on which I gladly lean,

For by thy warmth the chill is driven back.

O wondrous draught of heady midnight black,

Thou art a steady friend through morning hours!

For by thy warmth the chill is driven back,

And vigor given by thy subtle pow’rs.

Thou art a steady friend through morning hours,

Thy strength bestowed in wake of dreary night

And vigor given by thy subtle pow’rs:

To dim and bleary eyes restoring sight.

Thy strength bestowed in wake of dreary night

Renewing strength in bodies frail and old,

To dim and bleary eyes restoring sight,

O cup whose worth surpasses that of gold!

Renewing strength in bodies frail and old,

Thou art a staff on which I gladly lean.

O cup whose worth surpasses that of gold,

O coffee, sweet dark nectar of the bean!


The Castaway

A man adrift on swelling sea,

As lost as he could ever be,

One day looked up and chanced to see

A boat—

A mighty ship with billowed sail,

A sturdy craft of wood and nail,

Upon the misty ocean pale

Afloat.

This creaking ship at length drew near.

The castaway cried out in fear.

A sailor on the deck appeared

And said,

“O castaway! O drowning man!

I pray you, reach and take my hand.

This ship toward safety of dry land

Is sped.”

The castaway did then reply,

“Your offer is, I think, a lie.

So thanks, but I would rather die

At sea.”

“But if you die then you will sink

To churning depths as black as ink

Where horrors that in darkness slink

There be.”

“I see no nameless horrors dim.

I will not drown, for I can swim.

Your warnings of a future grim

Are wrong.”

“Then see this ship! None can deny

It is, at least, both safe and dry.

Please come aboard, or you will die

Ere long!”

“It seems to me naught but a wreck

Of rotted wood. To board your deck

Would be to put about my neck

A rope.

And on your deck are men who seem

Quite idle, wrapped in drunken dreams.

In consequence your ship I deem

False hope.”

“O castaway! Your words are true,

This ship is flawed, and in its crew

There are the idle drunken few.

But wait!

I beg you, hearken unto me!

Our noble captain saves, and he

Will help! Now act or it will be

Too late!”

But castaway, with many sighs,

Dismissed the sailor’s words as lies

And put his hands over his eyes

In pride.

The ship sailed on. Its course it kept

As captain and his sailors wept.

And castaway sank to the depths

And died.

4 thoughts on “105. Of Coffee and Castaways: Five Poems

  1. Though they’re all good, I think The Castaway is my favorite of the poems. I like the flow of it; I’m not sure that I’ve seen that kind of meter before. And it does do well to make one think.

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