The Reluctant Poet

My uncle always hated poetry.
And he especially hated poets.

In fact, I remember him once saying during a particular Thanksgiving get-together a number of years ago, "I hate poetry ... and I especially hate poets!" Which was a strange thing for him to blurt out so suddenly as we were watching the football game at the time.

"I could eat a horse
A dead one, of course
And cooked well done
And placed in a bun
With lettuce, tomato, and cheese
Could you hurry it up, please!"
So, it was with no small degree of irony that when my uncle was struck by lightning a few years back he began to speak only in rhyme. I've heard of other such unfortunate folks struck by lightning speaking in foreign languages, or in an Australian or Cockney accent, but never in rhyme.  I read once about a poor chap who spoke backwards (ie: "?toilet men's nearest the to me direct to as kind so ever be please you would, me Excuse.") and another who could speak only in numbers - and odd ones at that - but never anyone speaking in rhyming sequences. That is, until my poor uncle was met by Thor's thunderbolt.

His newfound talent began slowly. In fact, I remember his first words when he awoke in the hospital: "What happened to me? / Was I hit by a tree?" Followed by: "A lightning bolt, you say? / I guess it just was not my day."

Nurses rushed into the room when they heard my uncle had awoken from his electrically induced slumber. Are you hungry, one of them asked? To which he responded: "I could eat a horse / A dead one, of course / And cooked well done / And placed in a bun / With lettuce, tomato, and cheese / Could you hurry it up, please!"

What began as an interesting medical anomaly quickly became an annoying exercise for those of us who visited my uncle after his eventual release from the hospital. Conversations were tedious as he produced inane verses of chatter, such as:

poetunknown_400_01"Boy, did you see that game last night? / our starting pitcher was outta sight,

he struck out ten opposing batters / but the only thing that really matters,

is that three run homer in the ninth inning / that kept our hometown team from winning,

yet, there is no sense in placing blame / after all, tonight there is another game,

in the standings we're still five games ahead / four in the loss column, the sportscaster said,

but let's not forget cursed 1978 / and Bucky Dent's homer that sealed our fate,

fourteen games, that year, was our lead / just one more win was what we would need,

and when Yaz popped out to end the season / I looked to the heavens to find the true reason,

why had God forsaken our Red Sox team? / is a World Series win an impossible dream?!"

To which I would simply shake my head and sigh. It was all too much to handle.

And so it came to pass that my uncle would one day utter his last rhyme ... a short poem about a chicken salad sandwich he had eaten the day before ... and suddenly, and without warning, he passed away. The reluctant poet was stifled, put out of his lyrical misery by a truly merciful God. Yet, we found amongst his few possessions a draft last will and testament still in his typewriter. It was not signed, nor notarized, and was by no means legal ... although it didn't really matter, for he had nothing left to impart to loved ones as healthcare costs had rendered him flat broke. And yet it was typed entirely in verse. And upon its sole page was one final request. He asked for the following to be etched upon his headstone:

"Here I lie in my earthen grave / in the afterlife I promise to behave,

I promise not to gamble ... nor to curse, spit, or drink / I promise not to pour animal fat down the kitchen sink,

I promise not to play my jazz records way too loud / I promise not to drive a golf ball into an angry crowd,

I promise not to devour all but the black jellybeans / I promise not to allow the end to justify the means,

yet the one thing I will do ... and I hereby disclose / is to lie in this box dressed in these Sunday clothes,

and from the end of my toes to the very tip of my nose / I promise on my grave, I promise to decompose."

Sadly, my dear uncle passed on before he could witness a Red Sox World Series victory. Just as well - I shudder to think of all the bad poetry he would have recited!

Jack Sheedy

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