Serious Poems

The Respectable Man

The respectable man
reflects if he can
but the world won’t wait for reflectors
the respectable man
sits on the can
sits on the board of directors

The respectable man
hawks wares to the clan
who cannot tell shit from shinola
the respectable man
sees a water ban
and irrigates crops with a cola

The respectable man
works on his tan
en route to the Singapore Hilton
the respectable man
is pimping a plan
with robust tax-giveaways built-in

The respectable man
spits on his hands
and scurries his way up the ladder
the respectable man
looks over the land
and respectfully empties his bladder

M.S. Thomas, 2000

The Process Has a Point of View

the process has a point of view
the process has a plan
it consecrates opinion
of the group or of the man

the process can be tampered with
but one must take great pains
to regard the ghouls that process fronts for
ghouls weighted down with chains

each time we wantonly with process toy
one chain process doth loose
if the ghouls become untethered
we have ourselves cooked goose

blood rites, human sacrifice, motions carried
parliamentary procedures of every kind
serve well to prettify men’s base designs
but their rigidity may insult the mind

so by all means make your end run around
the process, subvert the stated order, bring fresh
thinking but beware the ghouls of process
which will claim their pound of flesh

or better yet submit to process and to “the rules”
establish your credentials and sanctify intent
until you see that form is but an empty suit
and process, when respected, can be bent

M.S. Thomas, December, 2009

“Christ I cried”

Christ I cried
and was speedily undone
cast up
to be consoled
by a bitter constellation.

Puritano, 2009

“Half hours on earth” (For Molly)

The quality of experience in half hours
is not uniform.
Some half hours are simply wasted
in others, something occurs
and leads into something else.
Other half hours pass quickly
they are maintenance,
but leave little residue.

“Half hours on earth
what are they worth?
I don’t know.”

With the occasional half hour
something actually happens,
in the Raymond Carver sense,
something that matters.
The air is charged and thin,
butterflies roil one’s viscera
and something is on the line.

“Half hours on earth
what are they worth?”

These electric half hours
even those isolated in time
are frightening, or better
giddily upsetting, and dangerous.
They sear themselves into the memory
more–they ripple the fabric of the cosmos.

“Half hours on earth.”

M.S. Thomas, Spring 2009


Has solitude outbred itself
as the Mongol ponies did
devoured steppes giving way
to empty afternoons
after ages reversing this
with Napoleon on the march
Moscow burned, homeward bound
ice already on the road.

Puritano, 2009

Stinking Bloom

Stinking bloom will out
though we have denied
the pulsing in the vein
sought sanity in angle
trusty borders that remain
still green rages– riots
couples with foul earth
spews the rank vermilion
soiling its own birth.

Puritano, 2009

The Pleasure of the Coil

Begin with gulls ratcheting down.
Every turn a tightening of screws
precise in its engendering of you
whose vertebrae are bravely stacked
grudging adherents of a syntax
where absolute minimum of line
when multiplied once by time
will just outlast the tension
of our radial composition
which yearns only to be embroiled
in the pleasure of the coil.

Puritano, Winter, 2009


This one bites
she said,
gingerly tonging my heart
into a mason jar
there to brood in dust
and sullen reverie.

Puritano, winter 2009

The Present

a form is filled
money is sent
a conscience is salved
a small difference is made
while somewhere
under the cover of darkness
or in the light of day
the beat down goes on

M.S. Thomas, circa 2003

Check-Out Girl

jim went to the store on Tuesday to buy eggs
and fell in love with the red-haired check out girl
jim of the drab brown suit and bifocals
of the pint size milk cartons on the floor of his car
jim who at sixteen thought he might have a ‘calling’
who would have made a good camp counselor
kids for christ
jesus youth,
jim fell in love with the red-hired girl and her little turquoise earrings
when he went for his groceries
jim of the tedious but inevitable self-gratification
jim who is definitely not (not) gay
who recently gave up hair tonic
but still has a fine head of hair for a man his age
(thirty four in september)
thank you very much
who always wanted to see Topeka, Kansas
just because of the name
jim of no artistic pretensions
who nevertheless sits down to compose a poem
to the check-out girl
with the red hair, the turquoise earrings and the toothy smile
who’s nineteen if she’s a day
he’s in love
no question about it

M.S. Thomas, 2000

Mod-Con (for Joe)

A friend remarked to me,
as we reposed I and he
“Which mod-con
could be improved on?”
And I,
dull and droned as a sun-drugged fly,
I didn’t know.
“The washing machine
I mean, dirty clothes revolving in
dirty water
come out clean?”

M.S Thomas, 1998

For Ann, Whom I Might Have Visited in England

Ann, belle princess of the isles
The orbs whisper your name
Even if you’ve gotten piles
Or if you’re on the game

Buxom barmaid or bellicose barfly?
The inevitable question
Booze improves the poet’s eye
But ruins her digestion

I grant, of course, I craved your booty
And though I was not the one
Who got the chance to do the duty
At least that duty was done

So I’d come not out of envy, less
The hope of getting laid
I’d come to watch you wear your dress
Or just to meet your maid

I’d be greeted by a toothless clod
Redolent of sedition
Lingering like a curse–though odd,
A clue to your condition

You’d talk of your work, congrats! although
despite the use of “rubbish”
That groundbreaking manifesto
T’would sit as yet unpublished

We’d return from a beach somewhere
To pale wallpaper peeling.
Out of reach (I wouldn’t dare!)
Fellow failures sharing fellow feeling

So pull those taps, and cash those checks
And go your beery way
For we’d meet and greet, clear the decks
Then grope for things to say

M.S. Thomas, circa 1997

  1. “Respectable Man” is indeed the strongest work here. It’s sort got a Kipling thing going on with the cadence…Kipling brought into the modern world, stripped of any illusions, and pissed off, that is.

  2. On the strength of Dean’s comment, “Respectable Man” has been moved to the top of the page. An earliest favorite post of mine was Edward Lear, who, as Dean said, masked a kind of animalistic wildness with the “nonsense” poem form. Lear was/is seen as a “children’s writer,” but this is an inaccurate, or at least narrow, understanding.

  3. “Respectable Man” stands head and shoulders above the other pieces here. It matches form to function: the jaunty rhyme-scheme plays off the subcurrent of rage wonderfully.
    There is a genuine authorial presence here; someone whom I don’t know but feel I might understand if I met them has crafted a hard and polished poetic blade, something to stab people with.

    It’s hard to imagine going much further with the limerick format!

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