By Ken Gosse

Follow the Foot

an ekphrastic poem about an accidental selfie of my foot

A picture containing building, furniture, rug, stair

Description automatically generated

Whose toes are those which I suppose
will tread the tread where each step rose
beneath the carpet on each stair,
well-worn although not yet thread-bare?
The foot itself shows signs of age
while still demanding to engage
its creaking knee twixt calf and thigh,
and hips that moan and groan a sigh
which once swayed to a lullaby
while holding children to its chest
(men’s hips are not where infants rest
nor do we call men’s chest a breast
or bosom, quite unlike the best—
a mother’s—where life first was blessed).

At seventy, the foot malingers
as do aching, stiffened fingers,
pondering the steps it takes
to sally forth, not leaving aches
and pains behind (which brings to mind
a source of comfort, oft maligned,
and yet, a very favored part,
a place where we may rest this cart
of skin and bone with ancient marrow,
bruised and bent, though once an arrow
straight and true, shot through and through
the days and nights which we one knew;
but each of those would take their toll—
our rocks no longer seem to roll
but gather moss upon the way
while hips no longer schwing and play).

The music, once loud in our ears
more muted now; our parents’ fears
that we abused ourselves with sound
that rattled buildings, shook the ground,
would one day prove its damage done
long after raving lost its fun.
Our eyes now blurred, our vision dimmed,
our graying hair less often trimmed
has also grayed in netherlands
which once could keep up with demands
of nature’s call—but worst of all,
it now seems that our wherewithal
has lessened, so we rise at night
too often to relieve our plight.

Yet lo! My foot upon the stair
knows where to go and takes me there.

Beach Combing

based on Lewis Carroll’s poem about these characters in “Through the Looking-Glass”

Walruses and carpenters oft’ gather in the plural;
they like to wander tête-à-tête on urban paths or rural,
their minds agog in deepest fog with thoughts that are aswirl,
attempting to untangle them, their mysteries unfurl.

Deep thoughts need food. By hunger cued, they’d soon invite some friends
to dine with them (as their repast) before their visit ends
and oysters were their favorite treat along a beach that wends—
but first they’d promise, post-dessert, that they would make amends.

Both heard them plead but disagreed with oysters who said “Please,
release our hands; deep in the sands our minds will be at ease.”
Instead, pretending they can’t hear, in jest, they’d cough and sneeze
as fragrance of their tiny friends perfumed the ocean breeze.

When comes the night, sun still shines bright but oysters there are none.
They’d done their best—’twas time to rest until digestion’s done.
All walruses and carpenters in pairs enjoy this fun
when on each morrow, without sorrow, pondering’s begun.

My Point Not Taken 

a parody of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”

Two thoughts emerged—mine judged no good,
the boss was sorry I was loath.
With egg on face, eternity stood
as I rooted in place as best I could
like a weed or disdained undergrowth.

I silently shouted, “This isn’t fair!”
but lacked a pike to stake my claim.
He called another to his lair—
my welcome being worn out there,
I sought my cube in dismal shame.

Quick change from gray, that doleful day
would turn to deepest, darkest black,
for just one choice before me lay:
He knocked all pondering out of play
by saying, “Take five. Don’t come back!”

Memories fading by and by
may muffle sounds of slamming fence.
Somewhere men laugh; I only cry.
Somewhere kids shout; I only sigh.
I left with undue diffidence.

The Price of a Perch

In politics public you’ll often be smirched
by doing to others, those more highly perched,
as well as those who simply don’t share your view,
for all must be wrong if they don’t sing your song.

That’s how the game’s played—the old rules belayed
using ropes that have splayed far apart from the start,
and blasting-cap jelly, the kind Machiavelli
refined for the world, where banners unfurled
to fight one-and-all, hoping others would fall.

They’re still used today to advance in the fray,
and so, if you’re stung and you’re brutally flung
from the ramparts so high which assailed passers-by
just remember, the ground where your body is found
is the place where you started before you departed
to play and besmirch, leaving you in the lurch.

Ken Gosse usually writes short, rhymed verse using whimsy and humor in traditional meters. First published in First Literary Review–East in November 2016, since then in The Offbeat, Pure Slush, Parody, Home Planet News Online, Sparks of Calliope and others. Raised in the Chicago, Illinois, suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years.

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