Mike Keith

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Original text in yellow, anagram in pink.

Delight in Disorder
by Robert Herrick

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness.
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthralls the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly;
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat;
A careless shoestring, in whose tie
I see a wild civility;
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

A Note on Anagrams
by Mike Keith

Coherent scrambling of this verse
Effects a better one, not worse:
Generic brushes swirl around
In ever-wise discretion;
A hidden verb, which now and then
Elicits mirth or irony,
A swap so careful one could miss
The drift displayed so prettily;
A wrenching trochee, haunted word,
To call or view one's thought unheard;
A darling scan on twisty fate
Is now that sonnet etched with hate.
These letters sit, indelible,
In lines precise, inerrable.

Return to Mike Keith Index

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
by T. S. Eliot

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair --
(They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!")
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin --
(They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!")
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all: --
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all --
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all --
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
It is perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

. . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?...

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet -- and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all" --
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: "That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor --
And this, and so much more? --
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."

. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous --
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old ... I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

The Swan Song of Ernest P. Worrell
by Jim Varney (translated by Mike Keith)

Let's get outta here, man, or I'll die,
When the night is lit by that big Moon Pie
And all our poker hands are on the table;
Let's go, through the Tarheel State,
Where siblings date,
And do the nasty in swampy motels,
While swilling whiskey that really smells:
Whiskey that flows like Alaskan oil
Full of brown sludge
And tells us all a dumb riddle ...
So don't say "Where's the sink?"
And "What is that stink?"

In the bars the chicks all dance,
Singing karaoke in tight knit pants.

My aging underwear rubs its elastic on my back
The stained yellow fabric scrapes and itches the small of my back,
Not to mention the irritation felt by Pete,
As he hangs there untaut and slack,
Thinking of that wanton time up on the roof
When I nearly slipped, trying to grab Thelma
By her love handles that August night
Up there on the roof, out of sight.

And yes, there I see a store
Where perhaps I can buy some non-yellow shorts
That will not itch the small of my back;
There will be Acme, there will be Target and K-Mart,
With Haines Briefs in the window,
And an ATM by the check-out lanes
And things I can buy for a few dollars,
To ease these Southern Living pains;
Things for him and things for her,
And things for deputies, and for a thousand Bubbas
To look at and say "hubba-hubba",
While snarfing Twinkies, iced tea, and beer.

In the bars the chicks all dance,
Singing karaoke in tight knit pants.

Go ahead and waltz, there'll be time;
Don't hesitate to ask, undecided, "Do I care?" and, "Do I care?"
Do I really want to wash my underwear?
Should I bother getting off Welfare? --
(They will say: "See, look - he sits around all day!")
My velvet Elvis art, my elevated shoes,
The trailer rows and the cream shampoos,
My silk-cravatted shirt and patterned hose --
(They tattle: "Look, he can walk on his hands!")
Might I stare, enticed,
At a new store there in the mall?
For a moment there I was sure
I saw the ultimate downtown thrill: an all-beef-jerky stall.

For I have waited, seen the stupid people, seen them all --
I have seen the boatloads of refugees
That come from Cuba with their coffee plants;
I hear the guitarist playing with a broken pick
Under the willow tree, in a pile of manure.
So how might I endure?

And I have known loose women down the hall --
The ones that nab me for a five or a ten,
And when I'm dazzled by their red and toothy grin,
Then find out that they'll never let me in,
And curse while foiled again,
Good golly, Miss Molly, what crap is this?
And how might I endure?

And I have seen the honky-tonks and bars --
Tongued those floors of tile or wood
(But in a beer haze, they taste so good!)
Is it wine or the rye-based mush
That ever makes me such a lush?
I drain the bottles, then I see the stars.
And how might I endure?
And where's the liquor store?

. . . . .

Should I drive my muscle car through the downtown streets
And offend the sensibilities, and even the ears
Of the snooty men on the plantation veranda?

I should have been a great big horny toad
Trotting along old Route Thirty-three.

. . . . .

There's that ornery moon, burning as a tattoo
In the sweet Alabama night.
Uncouth ... venomous ... or loaded,
Accompanying us on the floor as we sleep.
Should I, then, veer around and grab my fiddle
And attempt to totally whoop it up?
(Oh, no -- now, where'd I put my cup?)
But, Vern! Even though I have been to church, used the aisle,
Though I have seen my girl dance neked (though more than slightly fat) on stage,
She is no Salome -- and this no Bible age;
Oops, I've lifted the towel and seen my greatness pass,
I've seen some shower mates laugh off their ass,
And, to tell the truth, I was hurt.

And would it be worth a snout, a pig snout after all,
After times of crops, and times of dust,
And intrafamilial lust?
Should I eat a taco now, or must
I go and put on some new overalls,
So I can dare to go solve that oft-heard riddle
About a hen who wants to cross the road?
I'll swear: "I'm Emerson Fittipaldi, raised from the dead,
Here to win another race, with foot of lead" --
Quite as a tale I once read,
That went: "Merry Christmas to all,
And to all a durn good night."

And would it be worth a snout, a pig snout after all,
Would it be worth even a load of snot?
After visits with grandma and epidemics of head lice,
Stupid vaccines and permanent brain loss, and gamblers that toss loaded dice,
After the tired dinettes which sit there endwise,
Wet diapers and swatted flies? --
Oh, wow, I can't explain - knowhutimean?
Even if I wasn't a pervert that coveted the Reverend's wife,
Would I ever command less than contempt, or have a better life?
Will the wet manure still deepen, tapeworm-rife?
We answer, as we wend, alone, toward the porcelain pot:
I have no more taste for this, Momma.
No more taste for this cow's sweet cud, Momma.

. . . . .

No! I ain't a Southern poet - not quite;
I'm a devil, a dope, one that will do
To mope or mistreat a woman or two,
To mend a fallen fence or tame a bull;
Full of temper, glad to show some ire,
In pain I roost, a human hell entire
Lord of the toilet, with frilled attire;
Full of waste and unwashed desire,
At times a fool for hire.
In short, a stupid Mule.

I grow dumb ... I grow dumb ...
I will wait here 'til my Momma come.

Should I leave my family behind? Or should I marry Sis?
I will plant some taters, then go and have a piss.
I have heard the 'hopper calling the 'mantis.

I do not want this picnic lunch.

I see humongous bugs aloft in the wind,
Pommeling women and feeding on ten,
Stinging the bums of quite mad gentlemen.

We have wallowed in Waffle Houses and motels,
With omelettes and coffee our stomachs fed,
'Til oatmeal chokes us, and we're dead.

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Updated: May 10, 2016


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