Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Conversion of the Professor

The professor read Plato; he dabbled in Barth
He cried upon Nietzsche and groaned over Sartre.

He studied the Forms and things-for-themselves
He took everything the library had on its shelves.

He thought about estrangement and despaired at dasein;
He marveled at the vanity of the good and the fine.

He listened to them argue how we know what we know;
He said, "I'm too stupid and my mind is too slow."

He tried to grasp Zeno, but it butchered his head;
"I am much too stupid, yes, much too stupid," he said.

"Where can I find wisdom? How can it be
that these men are so brilliant and cannot agree?"

He went home to his granddaughter, who was making plum goo
and asked her quite frankly, "What can I do?

"I—" he stopped himself in the middle of saying something dirty.
She got down her Bible and read to him from Proverbs chapter thirty.

The Professor's Trip

The professor was leaving. It was time to pack.
He threw away his stuff, and took an empty sack.

He got onto a plane. It flew like a flash.
Before the pilot knew it, they crashed.

The professor floated on the ocean, up onto the shore.
He laid still, then stood up and walked in his front door.

The Ambiance of the Professor

The professor was lost. The reason for it was something he couldn’t find.
“But,” as he put it, “that’s wholly irrelevant if you’re out of your mind.”

He survived on hazelnuts and poisonous blue roots.
At six he dined on candy cane and bamboo shoots.

He slicked his hair with beeswax and smoked water in his pipe.
“Mmm,” he murmured. “The water here is good, and it’s ripe.”

His entire time in the woods he was very careful to be polite.
He got out a hose and washed his toes every nineteenth night.

He missed his granddaughter, so he stopped by the post office and sent her a letter.
“I should’ve put it in the creek,” he said calmly and sadly. “That would’ve been better.”

He dug a piano from under the leaves, and gracefully lulled out a song,
Lost and Alone as Sand in Space, but the words, as usual, came out wrong:

A rock sinks in the sleek black sea, never to return.
The fire in my heart’s so loud I can hear it burn.

I’ll never see you again, never see you again, never, never, I cry.
The thought of you is my reason for living, but it makes me die.

The professor climbed trees; he jumped into streams; he thrashed around in the brush.
And when he missed her so bad he was blind, he unlost with a twitch and a rush.

When He Was Young and Spry

“Grandpa,” she said, “I wrote something for you to stop and read.”
He was dashing quickly down the road to check up on his speed.

He stood at attention to salute a toad, then took the proffered scroll
and gave it right back, so she read it aloud: The Dragon in the Bowl

I’th’days when my grandfather lithe and youthful was,
his now lengthous beard naught more than light fuzz,

a dragon sojourn’d unto the village market seekingly of apple pie;
but my grandpa, bloodthirst and rash, nor wanting sensible “why”,

for the sake of his kindly kin, yea, his kin and kith,
raisèd up his sword and smote the dragon thatwith.

The worm recoil’d and forthwith gave a prolong’d fiery bellow;
notwithstanding, the serpent gave battle. “A rather tough fellow,”

remarkèd the youth offhandedly as he took his lunch break
consist’d whichwas of apples, and largely of dragon steak,

whichby meanteth he that ‘twas disgusting and hard to chew.
Nevertheless, heldeth he to. “Instead I will make some stew.”

The professor approved of this longago fairytale very much, maintaining every word was true.
“Yes,” he told her, “the apples; even our diction—you have it right. That is what I used to do.”

The Courage of the Professor

They screamed in his ears, they screamed in his eyes
In their anger at the professor, they screamed out lies.

But the innocent professor didn’t flinch—what did he care?—
so he stood there and watched while they pulled out their hair.

Then, as they raced, shouting, after him, he boarded a train.
One said to the others: “Along this track is rough terrain.

We’ll wait till the professor’s asleep in the caboose
then as we go over the gorge we’ll let that car loose

and give it a big heave to the left or the right.”
They gathered around and cackled with delight.

Then there was the gorge. The schemer cried, “Quick, to the back;
our last glimpse of the professor will be as he falls off the track!”

They passed through a car where it seemed to be night.
One fumbled about and found a large candle for a light,

but when he saw what the long, red candle was, his face went white.
It didn’t have a wick, but a fuse. His teeth rattled; he took a bite.

The professor was sitting on the turfy side of the mountain, his intended destination.
The train was a pop can shaken up; then—there was no evidence of the decimation.

The Incompetence of the Professor

They knew the house was in danger; they had scene more than one spark
It was time to call the electrician and tell him the wires had begun to arc

He picked up the phone—but there was a laugh at the door:
it was the professor, inquiring as to what he was wanted for.

“Well,” explained the man embarrassedly, “not for anything particularly—
I mean, I was going to call—uh, when you—um, I know this seems silly—”

The professor quietly comforted him with a crumbly bit of sharp cheese,
so they showed him the place where the wires had been gnawed by fleas.

When he saw the problem, he calmly asked for a pickle and lumber.
“So you’re a carpenter?” they asked, confused. “No, I’m a plumber.”

They brought him a pickle, extremely small and sour
The professor nibbled at it and savored it for an hour

The brought him lumber so he repaired the bed.
“Well, that did need to be done...” the man said.

They gave him pliers, so he plied at the wall till the man said, “Bleep!”
which the professor interpreted as meaning he should go right to sleep.

They doused him with buckets and sprayed him with hoses;
it would have been more worthwhile to do that to the roses,

but they kept it up till the house burst out in flame.
“Wake up—this is all your fault; you’re to blame!”

The professor’s face just kept on smiling, so they left for town
and he snoozed in the fixed bed while the house burned down.

It rained for three weeks without a pause but he did not so much as start.
Amid the ruins the blackened bed molded, mossed, rotted and fell apart.

At last the sun came out and his granddaughter woke him to gave him some tea;
and the confused old professor, though wet through, was as happy as he could be.

The Fishing of the Professor

The professor could not be seen, only piles of twine;
“What’s that?” asked the fisherman. The reply: “My handline.”

“What’s your bait?” “A strand of my granddaughter’s hair.”
“It won’t work,” declared the fisherman. “It’s too fair.”

“My granddaughter’s hairs have caught many a swordfish.
Your flies only catch minnows, and none that are biggish.”

They went together through the woods to the brook.
One tied on his fly; the other, a hair on his hook.

The professor let out his line, mile after mile
At last the fisherman said, with a bit of a smile,

“If you let out much more, you’ll be fishing in the sea.”
Then, “Argh! Another little minnow. Dirge-dump! Gee!

“Those’re all I’ve caught; three hundred nineteen—”
“Good,” said the professor, “my bait has been seen.”

He began yanking it in. “For my kind of bait,
the fish don’t hit, so you don’t have to wait.”

Soon after, the creek water began to rise;
it came up until it enveloped their thighs.

The fisherman, much alarmed, cried out in dismay.
The prof said, “It’s only my fish swimming this way.”

Nearly blocking the stream, it came into view,
bigger than the fisherman’s minnows, all 562.

“What is that fish?”—“I am sure that you know.
It’s a sort of shark that died out long ago.”

The fisherman replied in a voice much too loud—
the type of voice that is likely to gather a crowd—

“I challenge you to a duel with a cowboy friend of mine,
one who’ll turn you to mincemeat and feed you to swine.”

One—they stood at opposite—two—ends of the street—three.
The cowboy’s gun was halfway up when—bang-kablammy!

—it blew up. The professor hadn’t brought his gun;
he explained very carefully why he didn’t need one:

“Do not worry. I’ll fire tomorrow. My bullet is fast:
when I shoot it, it flies swiftly back into the past.”

The fisherman and the cowboy went together to the old bar.
It’s said that between them they downed a good deal of tar.