You may have heard people say all the good poets are dead. There was even a movie made a few years ago called Dead Poet’s Society starring Robin Williams portraying an English teacher teaching poetry to his students.
According to some studies less than 50% of the American public will ever read any poetry after finishing high school or college and less than 15% will ever buy a poetry book. Kudos to Saipan Tribune editor Jayvee Vallejera for publishing my poems and some of my student’s poems from Tinian and Saipan over the past 25 years or so. The students wrote haiku and senryu about their mothers and holidays.
I’d like to start this month’s Literary Nook with three living Irish American poet laureates: Billy Collins, born 1941, an East Coast English teacher, U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003; Kay Ryan, born 1945, a West Coast English teacher, U.S. poet laureate from 2008 to 2010; and last, and certainly least, myself, Joey “Pepe Batbon” Connolly, born 1949, a CNMI English teacher appointed Tinian poet laureate in 2018 by then Mayor of Tinian and a former CNMI attorney general Joey Patrick San Nicolas. At 72 I’m experiencing the onset of senile dementia so what better place to return to than my ongoing series of sonnets called T.O.A.S.T.—Telling Old Age Senescent Tales.
“So many of us streaming along—
all of humanity, really—
moving in perfect sync,
yet each lost in the room of a perfect dream.”
—excerpt from Billy Collins’ poem, The Parade.
D.D.T.—Dreading Dementia Thoughts
(A poisonous plague for senescent seniors)
Imagine river* rapids
that always flow both ways
into an ocean of thought
dementia slowly dams them
dementia slowly damns them
the thoughts get caught
in neural activity
connecting and lighting up ideas
swimming through it
fraught with neural onslaught
slowly encrusting a sea
of synaptic senescent tides
Short-term memory loss
slows the rapid flows
senile dementia settling in.
*The river referred to here is the corpus callosum, which is often called “the river that flows both ways.” It is a mass of transverse fibers connecting our brain’s cerebral hemispheres.
Sarcastic Symptoms of Senescence
Plenty aches and pains when growing old
bothered by this thing, bothered by that
bothered by heat and bothered by cold
wrinkled skin, crepe skin, many rolls of fat
wear and tear of more than sixty long years
fading night vision that new glasses won’t help
stomach rotundity from way too many beers
eating inedible greens, curly kale, sea kelp
no six to eight hours sleep like when in your prime
you forget the names of people you have just met
walking up and down stairs gives you a hard time
frequent urination leaves underpants a little bit wet
head hair going, lots of new hair in ears and nose
growing heavy with fat you can’t fit into your clothes.
Joey ‘Pepe Batbon’ Connolly (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Joey aka Pepe Batbon is a retired educator who taught in the CNMI, NOLA, and LVNV. He is a sonnet practitioner who enjoys stargazing.