Break, Break, Break — Brake! Brake! Brake!

Whenever I attempt to study poetry masters on my own, my inner Randy Rainbow seems to rear his goofy head. For example, compare the Poetry Foundation’s Break, Break, Break by Alfred Lord Tennyson – a short nostalgic poem with sea-side images about death and loss — to Parody Poetry’s Brake! Brake! Brake!  by me – a short nostalgic parody for the days when folks would stop and drop in for coffee. May Alfred Lord Tennyson forgive me!

Break, Break, Break

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman’s boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

Brake, Brake, Brake!

Brake, brake, brake!
For a chat and a snack and a coffee.
What’s all the rush and the bustle and fuss?
You look like a bunch of zombies.

As your whizzing cars go by
To your jobs O-so-far away,
I wish for you a day by the sea
And the sight of your children at play.

While your metal ships sail down
To the bottom of my long hill
I wish you good luck with your busy day
And hope that it gives you a thrill.

Brake, brake, brake!
On flat black tarmac, O Please!
Stop—right now—your wheels from spinning
For just one moment and breathe!



I Cannot Tell

Fun to find my parody of Henri David Thoreau’s ”Indeed indeed, I cannot tell”  posted by Parody Poetry today, August 5, 2019.  I wrote this poem from the eyes of Great Guy (his name) who took care of his grandparents with grace and pleasure.

I cannot tell the difference
between my grandparents.

I’ve never seen them apart.
I’ve never seen them argue.

They’ve had 65 years
to work everything out.

Neither one will vacuum or iron
but both are happy to cook and dust.

They talk at the same time
and repeat the same stories.

I’m not sure they even know
The difference between them.

They clipper cut each other’s hair and
have taken to sporting each other’s underwear.

When I arrived with groceries this morning,
I found them in front of the bathroom mirror;

Grandma was shaving her face. Grandpa was
rubbing a nub of her favorite lipstick on his lips.

Maybe they’re losing it.
Maybe they’re lost in each other.

Or, maybe, this is what Ruth, in the Bible, means by
…and the two shall become one.




The Recruit

“When my son was 19, he came home with a Harley—proud, confident, and carefree. Rather than haunting his happiness with my dark maternal fears of what-could-go-wrong, I wrote this poem.”

The Recruit
Published by Eclectica Magazine, July 2019
I already imagine
how they’ll tell me
as you and your 19 years
wave one arm
pull out of the driveway
on your beloved Harley.

It will be an eager recruit
about your age
with a patch of an eager moustache
who comes to the door so
it’s good I practice;
it won’t be easy on him
center stage for the first time.

He’ll remain on the doorstep
next to the geraniums, strive
to remember what
he’s been trained to say, strive
to strike up appropriate conversation.
And I will listen this time.

If he were to witness my
instant diminishment
into the joints of the tiles
he might quit then and there.

It would be better for him
to stand testimony
to my understanding,
to me slapping my forehead saying,
I always feared this day would come.
This must be horrible for you.
Come in. Have some tea.
We’ll sit at the kitchen table
and I will listen to whatever
the recruit has to say, grateful
to help him on his way
with a generous ear.

Two poems, À Nu

Truly honored to have two poems – my first in French! — included in the anthology, À Nu, following the guided poetry workshops held by Jean-Marc Barrier in Caux, France. I tried to play with the crosswinds of English and French — the sounds of the two languages as they mingle and drift around me.

For the poem Aloof Moon – Lune Opportune,  I chose Emmanuelle`s painting (below) and wrote with Jean-Marc’s words in mind: « La nudité peut-elle se dire ? Comment est-elle vécue ? Quelles sensations, quel regard sur soi ? « Quelque chose nu » arrive-t’il parfois dans le poème ? Nous pouvons nous approcher de cet espace de pudeur et d’impudeur, de liberté retrouvée, et faire un parallèle avec l’écriture, qui peut être « bien habillée », ou plutôt nue. Qui suscite aussi un regard sur ce qui vient,et quel est-il pour moi, à ce moment-là ?… »

The poems below, What Ouate Is—C’est la Ouate, were written with a giggle over my discovery of the French word “ouateuse” (which I now understand as meaning something cottony-cocoon-like) and I learned the silly French song, “C’est la Ouate!”  It was a treat to write them by a little stream lined with the talented, kind — and patient! — Caux crew à La Mazarié, Saint Vincent d’Olargues, in May 2019 where Jean-Marc encouraged all to work with the concept Rêve — Dream. 


To Switzerland with Love, from the Watchmaker’s Wife

Well, this is a pleasant first! When  Talesmag asked if I might have something they could publish about life in Switzerland, this poem came straight to mind; I’m so happy it has finally found a good home and — as you’ll see in the explanation and photos at the end – that I have, too, along with my personal Swiss Watchmaker.

To Switzerland with Love, from the Watchmaker’s Wife
as published in Talesmag, June 14, 2019

 Dear Helvetica,

I think I’ve finally figured us out. It took long enough!
Three decades, more or less. I know, I know,
you being the quiet type means I have to go first. And I will.
But only because I’m so in love with you.
How’d THAT happen? you wonder.
Well. Since you asked, first of all,
you have the sexiest watchmakers in the world, but there’s more:

Because instead of scissors, you gave my kids knitting needles
in Kindergarten to punch along dotted lines so they’d learn
precision, perseverance, and patience.
Because you made them walk to school.
Because you made them come home for lunch.
Because you made them walk back to school.
Because you have people with The Secret whom I can call for free,
and they’ll make 32 warts on the sole of a kid’s foot disappear.
Just like that.

It took some getting used to, but I’ve learned to love the peace and quiet,
that Sundays are sacred — no matter what your religion;
thank you for insisting that I NOT mow the lawn, or vacuum,
or shop on Sundays, and for teaching me that naps and watching
the grass grow can be forms of communal prayer.

Because you’re the heart of peace processes worldwide
but your citizens can rarely name their president.
You’re neutral but have enough bunkers for the whole country
to hunker down if need be. And those army knives rock.

Because you have the only direct democracy — and the creamiest
chocolate – on the planet, and even though over half of you
have guns, shootings are far out of the ordinary.
Did I mention that your watchmakers are the hottest?
Everything keeps on ticking, no matter what — right on time
because of your dashing watchmakers. Good thing, too, since you expect
everyone to be right on time … except for cocktails,
for which you’re always 15 minutes late, exactly, which is only possible
thanks to those clever watchmaking party animals. Right on! Right on!
What I wouldn’t do for a blissful kiss from a Swiss Watchmaker!
God, they crack me up. Now, where was I?

Because you’re tolerant and inclusive, even though one in four
of your residents is foreign — including me and mine, once upon a time.
Because, although you didn’t need me to teach you French,
you asked me to teach you English and taught me how to do it well.
Because I love teaching you English. And thank you for tolerating my French.
You, somehow, manage to communicate despite
having four languages; perhaps that’s because you demand respect
from everybody, and for everybody. You even expect the world to know
that CH* stands for Switzerland and that S is for some other country.

You have multicolored carpets of Alpine flowers up there, beneath snowy peaks,
palm trees down here, on the Montreux Riviera, and watchmakers in both
who get me going — keep me going —my time would stop without them.

You’re a 5-star country, Switzerland. I get you, I dig you, and am forever
grateful to you for my personal Swiss watchmaker, who learned from you
how to create gloriousness out of each precious beating minute of our lives
we’ve created within you, and who still really knows
how to    make     me     tick.

With love from the watchmaker’s wife,

Elizabeth Boquet
*CH, the abbreviation for Switzerland, stands for Confoederatio Helvetica

Author’s Note: On July 22, 1989, it all made perfect sense. After ten years of battling French (more on that here), I’d finally won the war. With a fresh MA (French) from Middlebury College in Paris, I was on an island in Maine, USA, marrying a Belgian French-speaking Swiss-trained watchmaker whom I’d met in Spain two years earlier. As one does.

 By August that year, I was a happy bride living and job-hunting, in Bienne/Biel, Switzerland — known as a bi-lingual (French-German) city. Only, my neighbors didn’t speak a word of French. Or English. Neither did the laundry machine repairman, or the plumber, or most people I encountered. I found myself illiterate, once again. Oh, and that hard-earned diploma? Well. In the USA, it, coupled with a secondary teaching certificate from the fine State of Maryland, got you a job teaching French in a snap. For some reason, however, the Swiss didn’t seem keen on having one of their national languages taught with my personal twist — an American accent.

 To make a 30-year-long story even longer, the Swiss are known to take time to appreciate – and, fair enough, it can take some time for the Swiss to embrace others. In my case, it took about 30 years but, somewhere along the way, my husband and I grew to appreciate Switzerland and its quirky ways — so much so that we wanted to become a part of it. Fortunately for us, the feeling was mutual and the Swiss kindly accepted my husband and me into the fold. With whopping gratitude for the all paths and people who lead me to Switzerland – and kept me there, I dedicate this poem to my personal watchmaker, Jean-François Boquet.

Elizabeth and Jean-François Boquet
Wedding on Heart Island, Maine, USA, 1989

30 years later, Swiss Citizens, in Lausanne, Switzerland


Road Trip Abecedarian

NaPoWriMo, April 19, 2019: “…Today, I’d like to challenge you to write an abecedarian poem – a poem in which the word choice follows the words/order of the alphabet. You could write a very strict abecedarian poem, in which there are twenty-six words in alphabetical order, or you could write one in which each line begins with a word that follows the order of the alphabet…”  The names of the animals for this poem came from a list written by my family – JF, Olivia and Alex — to pass the time on a road trip years ago.

This may sound strange — but what would you do
if you came back home and discovered a zoo?
We sat in the driveway – all were tongue-tied.
The house sure looked different — but no one knew why.

I climbed on the bench for a peek inside….
You. can’t. imagine. but you can give it a try!
I’ll try to describe it, one sight at a time,
in alphabetic order — but not rhyme:

Actual anteaters aspirating alfalfa sprouts
Bouncing baboons buttering bananas
Crocodiles chewing caramels — continuously
Dehydrated donkeys drinking daiquiris
Egalitarian eagles egging everyone
Flamingos flouring flopping fish
Greedy gorillas gobbling grapes
Happy hyenas heaving honey
Iconic iguanas icing ice cream
Jaguars juggling jellies
Keen kangaroos kicking kiwis
Leopards licking liquorice ladders
Mad monkeys munching maggoty mangos
Nifty newts nibbling nuts
Orang-utans overtly opening Oreos
Proper porcupines picking pickles
Quivering quail quacking-up quinoa
Roman rhinos revelling in ravioli
Sleepy sloths supping sushi
Tigers teething on t-bones
Uakari unsettling upside-down-cake
Vultures eviscerating vanilla beans
Walruses watering waffles with wine
X-ray tetras exhaling xeres
Yaks yodelling “Yummy yam yogurt, yoo—hoo!”
Zebras zapping zucchini ziti

Now you believe me? Just what would you do
if you came home and discovered a zoo?