Poetry: Two Poems

Dale Schellenger

Commencement Speaker

Cocksure, he spoke with unctuous babbitry.
Prancing across the stage, his penciled mustache
Darted up and down derisively
Each time we’d hoot, scorning his greed and lust as
He told us we’d grow rich if we could bilk
Poor farmers, as he had, by praying, “God,
Help me sell”—the mantra of his ilk—
Driving to drought-struck farms past dust-dry sod.
After these forty years and more, what’s changed?
Has our derision triumphed? Or has his
Hard-sell devotion, that we thought deranged,
Carried the day? How is it all the fizz
Leaked out of our self-righteous indignation?
Are we complicit in our scorn’s deflation?

The Letter D

I’ve been talking with Phoenicians,
Who live just east of Grecians,
And I’ve told them that the Romans gave me “D.”

They’ve said it’s not that simple,
Like what nuns call a wimple
Was named long, long before they wore it, see?

And if I understood them,
Through all their guttural phlegm,
They handed “D” down from antiquity.

Those lousy Romans took it,
Those Romans were so crooked,
And plundered “D” lost all its history.

If it’s deracinated,
This “D” I thought gold-plated,
Then I am surely rootless as can be.

I don’t know how to start out
If I must put the cart out
In front of the horse “D” once was to me.

I’m ailing and I’m paling,
I feel my tongue is failing,
No fricative slips in to set me free.

For “thale” and “vale” fall far short,
And “zale” is a subpar snort.
O! How I miss my plosive’s energy.

I want uncomplicated,
As I anticipated
Each morning of my life when “D” was free

To start the name I woke with
And not a sound I croak with
As if I choke back tears and misery.

I liked my name just fine when
“D” stood first in line, then
The other letters followed, one, two, three.

I found it gave me comfort,
But now it’s as if some fort
Had its walls breached and I’m a refugee.

Egyptians call “D” a door
That’s warped and drags on the floor,
Their chiming in not something I’d foresee.

Etruscans lazily say
They could not throw “D” away,
Although it was superfluous. Whoopee.

Why tell them that I need it?
They’d just make me repeat it,
Their alphabet inadequate at “D.”

It’s “Deutschland” to the Germans,
But what can all those Hermanns
Do to help me find the master key

That unlocks all these puzzles,
And breaks off all these muzzles,
So I can tell “D” it’s no amputee?

Whatever history shows it,
So what if no one knows it?
“D” doesn’t need a story to please me.

As long as it is willing
To put up with top billing,
And start things off, “D” suits me to a tee.

Phoenicians and you Grecians,
Historical deletions
Lend “D” a certain whiff of mystery.

I think I must reclaim it.
It’s certainly a shame it
Was gone so long while I sipped my Chablis.

But, although I will slur it,
I am completely sure it
Will settle with its old familiar glee

Into the leading role it
Held before you stole it,
And then I can go back to being me.

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