Theological Canine Debate

This has been circulating on the Internet for a while now, but it’s still good for a laugh. Someone went over to the Church Sign Generator and created this fictitious war of words between two churches in the same small town.

I know which of the churches I’d be going to!

Categories: Humor, Spirituality | 1 Comment

The Wall

You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words “I have something to tell you,” a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

Brian Doyle, writer, “Joyas Voladuras”

Remember this.

Categories: Great Quotes | 4 Comments


Before you begin, please read this comment, and heed its advice.
by Sylvia Plath

As the gods began one world, and man another,
So the snakecharmer begins a snaky sphere
With moon-eye, mouth-pipe. He pipes. Pipes green. Pipes water.

Pipes water green until green waters waver
With reedy lengths and necks and undulatings.
And as his notes twine green, the green river

Shapes its images around his songs.
He pipes a place to stand on, but no rocks,
No floor: a wave of flickering grass tongues

Supports his foot. He pipes a world of snakes,
Of sways and coilings, from the snake-rooted bottom
Of his mind. And now nothing but snakes

Is visible. The snake-scales have become
Leaf, become eyelid; snake-bodies, bough, breast
Of tree and human. And he within this snakedom

Rules the writhings which make manifest
His snakehood and his might with pliant tunes
From his thin pipe. Out of this green nest

As out of Eden’s navel twist the lines
Of snaky generations: let there be snakes!
And snakes there were, are, will be—till yawns

Consume this piper and he tires of music
And pipes the world back to the simple fabric
Of snake-warp, snake-weft. Pipes the cloth of snakes

To a melting of green waters, till no snake
Shows its head, and those green waters back to
Water, to green, to nothing like a snake.
Puts up his pipe, and lids his moony eye.

Categories: Poetry Sundays | 4 Comments

Lay Back the Darkness

by Edward Hirsch

My father in the night shuffling from room to room
on an obscure mission through the hallway.

Help me, spirits, to penetrate his dream
and ease his restless passage.

Lay back the darkness for a salesman
who could charm everything but the shadows,

an immigrant who stands on the threshold
of a vast night

without his walker or his cane
and cannot remember what he meant to say,

though his right arm is raised, as if in prophecy,
while his left shakes uselessly in warning.

My father in the night shuffling from room to room
is no longer a father or a husband or a son,

but a boy standing on the edge of a forest
listening to the distant cry of wolves,

to wild dogs,
to primitive wingbeats shuddering in the treetops.

Categories: Poetry Sundays | 4 Comments

There Once Was a Writer Named Gorey

I love limericks. I quite enjoy the off-color ones (the one about the lady from Brizes is probably my favorite), but I think I delight in the limericks of Edward Gorey — he of The Gashlycrumb Tinies fame — simply because the macabre, and particularly macabre humor, is so rarely dealt with poetically. Of the very many limericks he wrote, here are the ones I treasure:

The babe, with a cry brief and dismal,
Fell into the waters baptismal.
Ere they’d gathered its plight,
It had sunk out of sight,
For the depths of the font were abysmal.

A beetling young woman named Pridgets
Had a violent abhorrence of midgets;
Off the end of a wharf
She once pushed a dwarf
Whose truncation reduced her to fidgets.

A nurse motivated by spite
Tied her infantine charge to a kite;
She launched it with ease
On the afternoon breeze,
And watched till it flew out of sight.

An Edwardian father named Udgeon,
Whose offspring provoked him to dudgeon,
Used on Saturday nights
To turn down the lights,
And chase them around with a bludgeon.

There was a young lady named Rose
Who fainted whenever she chose.
She did so one day
While playing croquet,
But was quickly revived with a hose.

From Number Nine, Penwiper Mews,
There is really abominable news:
They’ve discovered a head
In the box for the bread
And nobody seems to know whose.

There’s a rather odd couple in Herts
Who are cousins (or so each asserts).
Their sex is in doubt
For they’re never without
Their mustaches and long, trailing skirts.

Categories: Holidays, Poetry Sundays | 2 Comments

The Epitaph

Yves Bonnefoy (b. June 24, 1923) is a French poet and essayist, the son of a railroad worker and a teacher. His works have been of great importance in post-war French literature, examining the meaning of the spoken and written word. His name is regularly mentioned among the prime favorites for the Nobel Prize. This poem was originally untitled, though usually referred to by its first line: “Le passant, ceux-ci sont des mots. . . .”

[Words on a Tombstone]

by Yves Bonnefoy

Passerby, these are words. But instead of reading
     I want you to listen: to this frail
     Voice like that of letters eaten by grass.

Lend an ear, hear first of all the happy bee
Foraging in our almost rubbed-out names.
     It flits between two sprays of leaves,
Carrying the sound of branches that are real
     To those that filigree the still unseen.

Then know an even fainter sound, and let it be
     The endless murmuring of all our shades.
Their whisper rises from beneath the stones
     To fuse into a single heat with that blind
     Light you are as yet, who can still gaze.

     May your listening be good! Silence
Is a threshold where a twig breaks in your hand,
     Imperceptibly, as you attempt to disengage
               A name upon a stone:

And so our absent names untangle your alarms.
     And for you who move away, pensively,
     Here becomes there without ceasing to be.
From The Partisan Review LXVII(2), Spring 2001. Translated from the French by Hoyt Rogers. Copyright 2001 by Partisan Review Inc.

Categories: Poetry Sundays | 2 Comments


I was watching an epsiode of The Dog Whisperer this morning. A fellow in a wheelchair was having trouble with his dog who, though normally extremely sweet and compliant, had attacked and killed another dog in the household, his sister’s rather yappy miniature poodle who had admittedly harassed the larger dog a great deal. It seems there were a few very small signs the owner had missed: the curl of a tail, a certain over-attentiveness in the dog whenever exciting stimuli was present. He acknowledged that he had made some mistakes, and set about trying to change them.

Something hit me as I watched that. And by “hit me,” I mean the sensation you might experience if your car was struck by a semi.

All my life I have lived with either a fear of failure or an obsession over my past or current failings. When in the throes of depression, I have often said that I am a mistake, a waste of breath, that my whole being is a failure. Owing perhaps to my father’s extremely high standards for me, or to my Evangelical upbringing, where a sin, any sin, cut you off utterly from the glory of God (hence the necessity of salvation), failure was always tantamount to a death knell for me. It meant I was fundamentally Unacceptable, that the relationship was irretrievably broken.

I have worked a great deal on that notion over the years, and I have made some progress, though not enough. I have told myself repeatedly that there is no such thing as failure. There is only the trial-and-error of life. You have discovered one more thing that doesn’t work the way you had hoped, so you now have an opportunity to try a different path, a different methodology. Try something radically different, or tweak the old approach just a bit and try again. It’s like a recipe that wasn’t successful; what ingredients need to be changed, what techniques need to be refined, to create a more pleasing result? It’s life as America’s Test Kitchen.

On today’s show, the fellow is in a wheelchair due to some crippling disease, yet he is able to train and control pitbulls. He saw that something he had done inadvertently, something in the way he had trained (or failed to train) his dog had cost his sister’s dog its life, and even though everyone acknowledged it was really the other dog’s fault for instigating it, he wanted to learn how to keep anything like it from ever happening again. He had made a mistake, and he owned it, but despite the great sadness it had brought to the family, he neither got defensive nor became consumed with guilt. “The path I took ended badly,” he said. “Now I need to learn what I need to do differently.”

It was precisely the right balance.

My life is not a failure. I have made choices that have brought me here. I couldn’t have gotten here any other way, through any other choices. Here is a good place, mostly, but now I want to go there. I see where my previous beliefs and actions have taken me; now I need to make new beliefs, take different actions, in order to get me to someplace else.

See? Television isn’t a total waste!

Categories: Body and Mind, Depression, Food and Diet | 4 Comments

Lyric Earwig

This song was in my head a great deal this week. And by “in my head” I mean that every time I woke up in the night for four nights running, this song was playing on my internal soundtrack. I found myself humming it when my mind wasn’t on anything else. I sang it, always in French, though I have only half-memorized the words, so there was a good deal of mumbling inside my head. Over and over and over. For four days, all day, all night, even in my sleep. Even in my dreams.

It’s always been a song, not a poem per se. The music was written by Kurt Weill in 1934, during his exile in France, as incidental music for the play Marie Galante.

The music, which I adore, is a tango in the style of a habanera. It’s sweet and sad and exactly captures the longing for escape from what Europe had become in the 1930s, or was about to become. Within a year of writing this music, Weill would flee France for the United States — one of the lucky few.

The song was given lyrics in 1946 by Roger Fernay. Fernay, the son of a music publisher, studied to become a lawyer but decided he’d rather be an actor instead. He worked on the French stage for about a decade, then became a writer for stage and screen. He spent the rest of his career unionizing writers and working on international copyright law. “Youkali” is his principal claim to fame.

Here is the exquisite Ute Lemper, the German chanteuse and actress renowned for her interpretation of the work of Kurt Weill, performing it exquisitely:


by Roger Fernay (my translation interspersed throughout)

C’est presqu’au bout du monde
Ma barque vagabonde
Errant au gré de l’onde
M’y conduisit un jour
L’île est toute petite
Mais la fée que l’habite
Gentiment nous invite
A en faire le tour

It was almost at world’s end
That my vagabond little boat,
Wandering at the will of the waves,
Conducted me one day.
The island is very small
But the spirit that lives there
Kindly invited us
To take a walk  around

Youkali, c’est le pays de nos désirs
Youkali, c’est le bonheur, c’est le plaisir
Youkali, c’est la terre où l’on quitte tous les soucis
C’est, dans notre nuit, comme une éclaircie
L’étoile qu’on suit
C’est Youkali

Youkali, it’s the land of our desires
Youkali, it’s happiness, it’s pleasure
Youkali, it’s the land where you leave all your worries behind
It’s like a shaft of light in a dark night
The star we follow
It’s Youkali

Youkali, c’est le respect de tous les voeux échangés
Youkali, c’est le pays des beaux amours partagés
C’est l’espérance
Qui est au coeur de tous les humains
La délivrance
Que nous attendons tous pour demain

Youkali, it’s the respect from vows that are exchanged
Youkali, it’s the land where loves are shared
It’s the hope
In every human heart
Tomorrow’s deliverance
That we all await today

Youkali, c’est le pays de nos désirs
Youkali, c’est le bonheur, c’est le plaisir
Mais c’est un rêve, une folie
Il n’y a pas de Youkali

Youkali, it’s the land of our desires
Youkali, it’s happiness, it’s pleasure—
But it’s only a dream, a madness:
There is no Youkali.

Et la vie nous entraîne
Lassante, quotidienne
Mais la pauvre âme humaine
Cherchant partout l’oubli
A, pour quitter la terre
Se trouver le mystère
Où rêves se terrent
En quelque Youkali

And life carries us along
In tedium, day by day.
But the poor human soul,
Searching everywhere for oblivion,
Has, in order to escape the world,
Managed to find the mystery
Where dreams burrow themselves
In some Youkali.

Youkali, c’est le pays de nos désirs
Youkali, c’est le bonheur, c’est le plaisir
Mais c’est un rêve, une folie
Il n’y a pas de Youkali

Youkali, it’s the land of our desires
Youkali, it’s happiness, it’s pleasure—
But it’s only a dream, a madness:
There is no Youkali.

Categories: Poetry Sundays | 2 Comments


My parents are appearing in my dreams with disturbing frequency now.

After my father died in 1982, I saw him in dreams and dream-states only once in a while. He was about 3/4 the height he was when alive, and he was often mute or had a gag over his mouth.

Then he went away. Couldn’t access him through dreams or journeys. This phase lasted a good dozen years. When he reappeared, he was (a) of a “normal” age, neither young nor old, (b) relatively healthy, and (c) almost without exception not married to Mom. In many dreams they had been married once, but they had divorced or separated. (In waking reality, they had a three-month discussion of separation, but then he became ill, and they reconciled and were very close again.)

In the the ten months (exactly) since Mom’s death, she has appeared uniformly strong and healthy and vigorous and independent, just as I believe she always wanted to be. Sometimes she was much younger and prettier than I knew her, sometimes she was like herself in her 60s, which were a vibrant time for her.

For the last month or two, Mom and Dad have both been showing up in my dreams. When they appear in the same dream, Mom is tired but healthy, while Dad is extremely ill, walks with a cane, can’t see well, and has balance problems. They are usually long divorced, but have come together for some event or over some situation in their lives where they need to work together.

Last night Dad was cold and arrogant, listed to the left when he walked, and his left eye didn’t seem to work well. I was trying to help Mom get ready for a visit from some old friends of theirs. They were best man and matron of honor at my parents’ wedding, and remained fairly close emotionally to my parents throughout their lives, even if they weren’t always in close contact. These friends died in the early 1990s. Now last night they’re all alive, and I’m helping Mom prepare drinks and food for the party, while Dad is doing his best to annoy people.

So strange. When Mom was in her last stages, she’d talk about reuniting with Dad, and it was always with great longing and affection, as if this would be rest and home to her. By the time Dad died, they were close and loving, and he and I had the best relationship we had ever had, which has made his post-death appearances all the more confusing.

I have no doubt whatsoever that these dreams are all very Freudian or Jungian, and mean very dark things about me, me, me, but I’m fascinated at how visceral it all is: I wake up feeling terribly disturbed at seeing them together again, changed, uncomfortable, when both my hope and my honest belief is that they are happy and whole and free.

Categories: Body and Mind, Death, Dreams, Family, Spirituality | 1 Comment

What’s in a Mistake?

One reviewer called this poem “deceptively simple, direct, moving, and thoroughly astounding, full of political, religious, and cultural truth.” Wowser. I’m sure I haven’t yet plumbed its depths, but I certainly love what it says about human error, and the work of correcting it. It reminds me of the art of making a Persian rug, though this is a rather different take on the subject.

The Printer’s Error

by Aaron Fogel

Fellow compositors
and pressworkers!

I, Chief Printer
Frank Steinman,
having worked fifty-
seven years at my trade,
and served five years
as president
of the Holliston
Printer’s Council,
being of sound mind
though near death,
leave this testimonial
concerning the nature
of printers’ errors.

First: I hold that all books
and all printed
matter have
errors, obvious or no,
and that these are their
most significant moments,
not to be tampered with
by the vanity and folly
of ignorant, academic
textual editors.

Second: I hold that there are
three types of errors, in ascending
order of importance:
One: chance errors
of the printer’s trembling hand
not to be corrected incautiously
by foolish professors
and other such rabble
because trembling is part
of divine creation itself.
Two: silent, cool sabotage
by the printer,
the manual laborer
whose protests
have at times taken this
historical form,
covert interferences
not to be corrected
censoriously by the hand
of the second and far
more ignorant saboteur,
the textual editor.
Three: errors
from the touch of God,
divine and often
obscure corrections
of whole books by
nearly unnoticed changes
of single letters
sometimes meaningful but
about which the less said
by preemptive commentary
the better.

Third: I hold that all three
sorts of error,
errors by chance,
errors by workers’ protest,
and errors by
God’s touch,
are in practice the
same and indistinguishable.

Therefore I,
Frank Steinman,
for thirty-seven years,
and cooperative Master
of the Holliston Guild
eight years,
being of sound mind and body
though near death
urge the abolition
of all editorial work
and manumission
from all textual editing
to leave what was
as it was, and
as it became,
except insofar as editing
is itself an error, and

therefore also divine.
From The Printer’s Error, 2001, Miami University Press, Oxford, Ohio. Copyright 2001 by Aaron Fogel.

Categories: Poetry Sundays | 3 Comments


I’m not sure who said it. Probably my acupuncture physician, but my memory is a bit vague; for all I know, my friends have been saying the same thing for months or years, and I’ve only now capable of hearing them. But this is what I heard: “I don’t think you’ve believed that things can actually change.”

Substitute “things can actually change” for “you can lose weight” or “you can regain your health” or “you can create a different sort of life for yourself” or “you can become unstuck,” and you’ll have a picture of the loop I’ve been in for a very long time. Actually, though, I have believed things can change: they can always change for the worse. And I’ve believed that things can change for the better, but not because I had anything to do with it—I am that which fouls up plans, or ruins a good thing, or starts off hopefully and resolutely only to fail once again.

I’ve written about my struggles with depression. I was a moody kid, certainly, but the deep, dark, despairing kind of depression didn’t hit until college. I think that’s the time most people who have schizophrenia start becoming ill; I’m guessing it has something to do with changing brain chemistry. Mine started in my freshman year, and seemed to cycle almost with the moon. Since then I’ve learned that many people suffer greater depression around the new moon, just as many people experience insomnia around the full moon.

In my junior year I had some kind of depressive break. I spent my days curled in a fetal position on my bed, chewing on the chenille balls of the bedspread, weeping uncontrollably. I would venture out only after dark, and walk the mile or so into town to find something to eat, because I certainly wasn’t going to go to the dining hall to reveal my condition to my friends.

This lasted two or three months. Reading T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and a couple of Gerard Manley Hopkins poems, notably “Carrion Comfort,” over and over, aloud, almost chanting them, making them into a mantra or a magic spell, were the tools that helped me regain a modicum of sanity. When I finally approached my best friend in college and summoned the courage to tell her what I had been through, she chastised me sternly for being self-indulgent, and told me she never wanted to see me in that sorry state ever again.

About ten years later I learned that she had just come through a year of depression, and that her husband was bipolar. I desperately wanted to be compassionate, to think that perhaps her extreme reaction was because the idea of my depression triggered a profound fear in her, but all I could think was: Ah. Now you know what it feels like. Now you understand.

The depression came and went over the years; after that major college episode, it was no longer on a tidy calendrical schedule. When it came, it was bleaker and more profound, and when it went, I was at least able to cope with daily life, though it was never true happiness. I never quite got up to that level again.

Toward the end of my two years in Vermont I slipped into a depression. When I realized I was actually planning my suicide, trying to decide who should take care of my dog and how to minimize the horror and clean-up when my body was found, I decided I needed to seek professional help. My doctor prescribed Wellbutrin. After four weeks it finally kicked in, and I woke one morning feeling balanced and happy and at peace. Three hours later I broke out in hives all over my body: I was allergic to the medication. Then we tried Prozac. It gave me seizures of the jaw that made me bite my tongue badly during my sleep. My doctor decided that SSRIs didn’t work with my brain chemistry, and hoped that herbs and diet would solve the problem. They helped, and moving back to Florida a couple of months later to take care of my mother (not to mention all that good sunlight) helped even more.

Then I started receiving acupuncture—not expressly for the depression, though that was certainly one of the concerns. Within a month I felt much, much better; within three months I could no longer  access that level of despair even when I tried. And no more depressive episodes of the kind that had so bedeviled me for three decades. It’s been a remarkable transformation.

But this year, after Mom’s death, I’ve come to see that I still have the behavior patterns of a depressed person, if not the feelings. And now I realize that I also have a depressive belief system: the bedrock certainty that no matter what I do or how hard I try, nothing will ever truly change for me. That I am Sisyphus.

I’m reporting all this because I think that old belief system may be changing. Slowly, by increments perhaps. But I’m starting to believe that change is possible, that bodies and mindsets and circumstances are maleable, that I have more power over my life than I think I do. It is not, alas, a straight-line improvement. There are days when I think everything is possible and others when I still think nothing is. But the overall direction, I believe, is one of opening up, of seeing light, of thinking Yes, maybe. Maybe there’s hope.

Categories: Brain, Depression, Healing | 10 Comments

While We’ve Still Got Feet

Inspired by classical Chinese hermit poets, David Budbill dispatches poems from his remote Vermont hermitage, Judevine Mountain, but cannot escape the complications and struggles of a modern existence. Loneliness, aging, and political outrage are addressed in poems with blunt honesty, humor and keen insight into the human condition.

Weaving throughout While We’ve Still Got Feet is the peace of a wilderness home, the pleasures of daily life, and a perceptive melancholy over the passage of time. As in his previous bestselling volume, Moment to Moment—which was cited by Booklist as a “Top Ten Book of the Year”—Budbill confronts opposites: solitude and loneliness, contentment and restlessness, the allures of the city versus the country, and the tension between engagement with and withdrawal from the world.


by David Budbill

we are
bones and ash,
the roots of weeds
poking through
our skulls.

simple clothes,
empty mind,
full stomach,
alive, aware,
right here,
right now.

Drunk on music,
who needs wine?

Come on,
let’s go dancing
while we still
have feet.

From the book While We’ve Still Got Feet by David Budbill, published by Copper Canyon Press.

Categories: Poetry Sundays | 2 Comments

I’d Love to Be on the Danforth Tonight

—mainly so I could share a glass and perhaps a meal with one of my dearest friends I have never met. Bookseller, philosopher, writer (the music of whose prose rivals that of Thomas Hardy and Llewelyn Powys), papa to the polydactyl Alfie and the late and most beloved Fanny. Deloney, the happiest of birthdays to you.

Of course I had to celebrate your day with music. Here are two geniuses for you.

Categories: Blogroll, Music | 2 Comments


I have officially achieved coffee Nirvana.

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon Raven’s Brew Coffee Roasters, a marvelous coffee company in Ketchikan, Alaska. Easily the best coffee I have ever tasted. Extraordinarily high-quality beans, perfectly roasted. Even better, they’re big proponents of sustainability: they use shade-grown, organic, and naturally-processed coffee beans in most of their blends, and support small family growers through their buying practices.

aeropress Last week I stumbled upon the Aerobie AeroPress, an espresso and coffee maker that gives French press quality coffee without the bitterness or sediment. The reviewers, even jaded coffee connoisseurs, were going overboard in their praise (as one friend would say, “raving, foaming at the mouth, falling over backward”), so I ordered one, and made my first cup this morning.

It was, as I said, Nirvana. Silky smooth, full-bodied, rich, incredibly flavorful, and bringing out all the subtleties of the coffee as well as its strengths, even with cream added. A new shipment of Raven’s Brew arrived just yesterday. So today I had my old standby, Wicked Wolf. But I also ordered an old favorite, Skookum Blend.

When we read the Skookum Blend motto—“Halo Wau-wau, Muckamuck Kaupy,” which they translate as “Shut up and drink the coffee”—Adam was as fascinated with their use of Chinook jargon as I was. I had been familiar with only a few words and phrases before: tilikum (friend), tumwater (waterfall, literally “heartbeat water”), potlatch (the great gift-feast which underlay the Pacific Northwest Coast people’s economic and political systems), and of course hyas muckamuck (the “big dogs” who sit at the head table during feasts), but reading the Wikipedia article on the subject was nearly as stimulating as the coffee itself.

It even prompted Adam to write a poem about the coffee. The poem, appropriately enough, is called “Skookum,” which is Chinook jargon for “strong.” (I sent a copy of the poem to Raven’s Brew, but they must have never received it, or surely it would now be printed on their coffee bags or displayed prominently on their website.)

Here, then, is Adam doing a public reading of “Skookum,” from his forthcoming collection Identity Theft:


by Adam Byrn Tritt

I had this dream.

A longing. A thirst.

I would go to the Pacific Northwest
And live among the tall trees.
Wake to cedar and coffee,
Fish for salmon,

I would learn from the Chinook,
Keep my mythos close to me,
Prosper from the green land,
Take life as pleasure.

I even learned their Trade Jargon,
The Chinook Wau-wau so much the
Creole of the Pacific Northwest.

I am called there but
It is a battle upstream
And I am exhausted,

I am too busy working to spawn.

Listen to me.
As we sit here across this table,
As I decide what to wear,
Think about how long my day will feel,
Taste the dry breakfast I eat of need
And not desire,
I sip the strong splendor;
My salvation in a cup,
My blessed Skookum.
As I listen to you drone—
Your day, our life,
How good it all is—
All I want to say is
Halo Wau-wau, Muckamuck Kaupy:

“Shut Up and Drink the Coffee.”

Categories: First Nations, Food and Diet, Poetry Sundays | 5 Comments


The first poem I ever remember hearing, and certainly the first I ever memorized, was written by Laura Elizabeth Richards, born in 1850. Her father was a social reformer who later gained fame as an abolitionist; he was the founder of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind. Her mother was the poet Julia Ward Howe, who is best known as the author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”


Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant —
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone —
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee —
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

Which reminds me of my second-favorite Monty Python sketch (my favorite being “Premise and Conclusion”):


Announcer (John Cleese): Tonight on Who Cares? we examine the frontiers of surgery. With us is the international financier and surgeon Reg LeCrisp and his most successful patient to date, the elephant Mr. George Humphries. (Elephant trumpets.) Mr. LeCrisp, the surgery on Mr. Humpries is truly remarkable, but — why an elephant?

LeCrisp (Terry Jones): Well, that was just a stroke of luck, really. An elephant’s trunk became available after a road accident, and Mr. Humphries happened to be walking past the hospital at the time.

A: And what was Mr. Humphries’ reaction to the transplant of the elephant’s organs?

L (interspersed with trumpeting): Surprise at first, then later shock, and deep anger and resentment. But his family were marvelous, they helped pull him through —

A: How long was he in hospital?

L: Well, he spent the first three weeks in our intensive care unit, and then eight weeks in the zoo.

A: I see. . . . Is Mr. Humphries now able to lead a fairly normal life?

L: No. Oh, no, no. No — he still has to wash himself in a rather special way, he can only eat buns, and he’s not allowed on public transport. But I feel these are very minor problems —

A: Mm hmmm.

L: — when you consider the very sophisticated surgery which Mr. Humphries has undergone. I mean, each of those feet he’s got now weighs more than his whole body did before the . . . elephantoplasty, and the tusks alone —

A: Er, some years ago you were the center of, er, controversy both from your own medical colleagues and from the Church when you grafted a pederast onto an Anglican bishop.

L: Well, that’s ignorance of the press, if I may say so. We’ve done thousands of similar operations, it’s just that this time there was a bishop involved. I wish I could have more bishops, I —

A: Is lack of donors a problem?

L: There just aren’t enough accidents. It’s unethical and time-consuming to go out and cause them, so we’re having to rely on whatever comes to hand — chairs, tables, floor-cleaning equipment, drying-out racks, pieces of pottery . . . and these do pose almost insurmountable surgical problems. What I’m sitting on, in fact, is one of our more successful attempts. This is Mrs. Dudley. She had little hope of survival, she’d lost interest in life, but along came this very attractive mahogany frame, and now she’s a jolly comfortable Chesterfield.

A: Mm hmm. I see.

(Sound of car crashsirens blaring)

L: Oh — excuse me. . . . (Rushes out)

Categories: Poetry Sundays | 8 Comments

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