Gostelowe Standard Crest

Devon, PA.  Here is a poem of mine that has just appeared in the poetry journal The Dark Horse and on Ernest Hilbert’s ever amusing daily dose of literature and kitsch, E-Verse Radio.  For those who cannot be alike savy to mass culture and Augustan literature, please note the “pinned lapel” refers to the standard American practice of politicians’ pinning flags thereon, and the word “scoundrel” is meant to call to mind Dr. Johnson’s opprobrium regarding such appeals; I leave other matters of reference and interpretation to the sympathetic reader.

The retail banker in his cubicle

Will speak of his great-aunt, or cherish photos

He plucked from her estate sale, with some dull

Soporifics so quaint they must be no pose.

But jealous of the little powers his branch

Manager gives like souvenir coffee cups,

He drops the sweet talk—as Acton says, corrupt—

To charge this late fee or repossess that ranch.


Inclined to think the salesman’s smile cheap paint,

The earnest confidence less pearl than swine,

And every pinned lapel a scoundrel’s feint,

We bathe our sentiments in turpentine;

Suspect adultery in our neighbor’s nest;

Leave love and faith in nursing homes to rot

Where they feed on those innards we forgot;

And mock our innocence for its hollow chest.


But discontented sipping irony,

The occasional citizen will hear a drum

Sounding with more than antique vibrancy.

He wanders through the alleys till he comes

Upon an old flag in the collective attic:

Too plain for casual appreciation,

Enduring every age’s violation,

Its crest grown true, more bloody, and more vatic.

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  1. Wonderful! I particularly enjoy the way the rhyme scheme and cadence is varied between the first four lines and the second four lines of each octet. I don’t know about you, but I must read a poem aloud before I can really appreciate the details of its construction. If it doesn’t pass muster as actual vibrations in the ether, I have trouble appreciating it. Your poem passes that test with (heh!) flying colors.

    This couplet in the second stanza resonates painfully with me, due to a family situation of some time back:

    Leave love and faith in nursing homes to rot /
    Where they feed on those innards we forgot;

    One question: Which came first in composition, attic or vatic? I suspect attic as the image of finding an old flag in the attic is a natural one, whereas the word vatic is sufficiently unusual that I had to look it up. Then again, on FPR at least, just about every piece you write makes use of at least one word I do not know (and I pride myself on a large vocabulary), so perhaps it came the other way.

    I ask because I used to write poetry and I find it endlessly interesting how others go about composition. It has been many years since I composed a serious poem (as opposed to some throw-away limerick or couplet spouted for cheap laughs and immediately forgotten), but the desire to again pick up this craft of my youth has been stirred recently by several fine examples of excellent poetry which I have come across.

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Wilson,
    Damn you…I once tried poetry as a test by a linguist friend who suffers under my prolixity and he read it patiently and promised never to ever make it public nor available to the proper authorities at Belvue.

    A Fine Piece! The complicity of all of us in this banal period is a real mystery. With the soul and its God dead per Nietzsche …killed by default of course, Sentience left us too. And who is so boldly daft as to say the Soul and Reason are not one in the same?

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