Per Contra Spring 2009 Light Verse Supplement


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A.M. Juster

Your Midlife Crisis

You found yourself—but at an awful cost.
We liked you better when you were lost.

Appeared in Baer, Writing Metrical Poetry (Writers’ Digest Books, 2006)




Nothing in Hell Is Up to Snuff
for XJK

It rankles us that Satan doesn’t care
for process. Brimstone shipments are too slow
for summer fun, so flesh is roasted rare,
and He has spared us Barry Manilow
without an explanation. Long ago,
He’d welcome new arrivals with a show
of evil…not now! He seems unaware
that He is failing as a CEO.

Unshaven, dazed in tattered underwear,
He leaves the pitchfork on His patio,
then curses God without the same old flair.

Though revolution simmers in the air
and demons hatch new schemes for overthrow,
the damned prefer The Devil that they know




Prufock’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Red Wheelbarrow Glazed
with Rain beside White Chickens

Piove molto ogni mattina;
c’e aqua nella piscina.
Servono pollo di mare.
Chi ci viene a trovare?


Let us go then, you and I,
As the stench spreads out around the sty
Like a drumstick decomposing on a table.
Let us go, through certain half-deserted coops,
Through mounds of chicken poop,
And farmhouse kitchens filled with roach motels
Just down the road from Haddam’s Taco Bells.


The red wheelbarrow left out in the rain
Lingers in a pool that will not drain.


So much depends upon this easy tool
Though the help should use it, as a rule.


And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Should I push?” and “Should I push?”
Time to count the poultry in the bush.


I grow old…I grow old.
My sidedish is getting cold.

Dare I dine upon a nugget? Dare I take the chance?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, like Colonel Sanders’ pants.


But though I have wept and ordered, wept and paid,
Though I have seen my hens brought in upon a platter,
I have seen the hot coils of the broiler flicker
And I have seen the short-order cook pick his nose, and snicker,
And, in short, I felt filleted.


There will be time, there will be time
To prepare the livers and the meat;
There will be time to slowly marinate,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That softly slop some gravy on your plate.


So much depends upon this deep-fried scene…
Oh do not ask just what I mean.


A.M. Juster is the author of three books: a collection of Petrarch translations, Longing for Laura (Birch Brook Press 2001); a book of original poetry and translations, The Secret Language of Women (University of Evansville Press 2003), which Rachel Hadas selected as the winner of the Richard Wilbur Award; and another translation, The Satires of Horace (University of Pennsylvania Press 2008). His work has appeared in The Paris Review, North American Review, Southwest Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The New Criterion and other publications. He has won The Formalist’s Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award three times as well as numerous other awards. He has been a featured poet in Light, a fellow at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and an adjunct instructor at Emerson College.



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