The Elders assemble,
Sorcerers, Witch Doctors,
armed with machetes, scalpels,
magnifying glass, tweezers.
They giggle and gossip in good humor
as the first initiate ascends
the wide steps of the pyramid,
then is placed on the slab.
The First Elder proclaims,
“The poem is terrific,
but it needs to be
cleaned up of course!”
Some quick cuts with the scalpel.
“The”s, “and”s, “but”s, “like”s
spurt out sloppily, spattering their robes.
Wiping her eyes clear
the Gaunt One says,
“Now that we know what
you are saying,
it is obvious you have said it
Probing with tweezers, she pulls out
dangling modifiers, nouns used as verbs,
verbs used as nouns.
“I can’t stand ‘ing’s —
get rid of them,” she invokes.
Magnifying glass in hand
the Tragic One laments,
“I like it, but what does it mean?”
A groan is heard from the altar.
“It doesn’t mean what you think it means,
for I meant to say something else,” she wails.
The Wise One whacks
with the machete.
She puts the top on the bottom,
the middle at the end,
leaves the beginning out altogether.
“Now it is in the right order,” she nods.
“Less is more! Less is more!” the Elders chant.
The Irish Midwife reaches into the gore,
giggling, her eyes a-sparklin’,
pulls out a title —
“And if’n ya call it
this stedda that
it’ll be a real fine poem
now, don’tcha know.”
The poet staggers down the pyramid,
eyes glazed, wounds smarting,
clutching the mangled masterpiece
to her breast.
Carol Sherman’s new chapbook of humor poetry is titled “The Art of Gargling.” It features a cover by the veteran Archie comic-book illustrator Stan Goldberg. Ms. Sherman, a member of the East End Poetry Workshop, lives in East Hampton and spends winters in Mexico.