Category Archives: Poems, prose & song

Pandemic poetry 2: “The Influenza”

The Influenza 

Influenza, labeled Spanish, came and beat me to my knees;
even doctors couldn’t banish from my form that punk disease;
for it’s not among the quitters;
vainly doctors pour their bitters into ailing human critters;
they just sneeze and swear and sneeze.

Said my doctor, “I have tackled every sort of ill there is
(I have cured up people shackled) by the gout and rheumatiz;
with the itch and mumps I’ve battled,
in my triumphs have been tattled,
but this ‘flu’ stuff has me rattled,
so I pause to say G. Whiz.”

I am burning, I am freezing, in my little truckle bed;
I am cussing, I am sneezing, with a poultice on my head;
and the doctors and the nurses say the patient growing worse is,
And they hint’ around of hearses, and of folks who should be dead.

Doom has often held the cleaver pretty near my swanlike neck;
I have had the chills and fever till my system was a wreck;
I have had the yaller janders, foot and mouth disease and glanders,
and a plague they brought from Flanders on an old windjammer’s deck.

But this measly influenzy has all other ills outclassed;
it has put me in a frenzy, like a soldier who’s been gassed;
if the villainous inventor this my lodge of pain should enter
I would Use the voice of Stentor till he had been roundly sassed.

May the ‘influenza vanish!
Of all ailments it’s the worst;
but I don’t believe it’s Spanish – haven’t thought so from the first;
on my couch of anguish squirmin’,
I’ve had leisure to determine that the blamed disease is German,
which is why it is accurst.

– by Walt Mason, a survivor of the Spanish flu, 1918

***

Pandemic poetry 1: “You’ve got the Flu, boy, You’ve got the Flu.” (1919)

When your back is broke and your eyes are blurred.
And your shin-bones knock and your tongue is furred,
And your tonsils squeak and your hair gets dry,
And you’re doggone sure that you’re going to die,
But you’re skeered you won’t and afraid you will,
Just drag to bed and have your chill;
And pray the Lord to see you through
For you’ve got the Flu, boy,
You’ve got the Flu.

When your toes curl up and your belt goes flat,
And you’re twice as mean as a Thomas cat,
And life is a long and dismal curse,
And your food all tastes like a hard-boiled hearse,
When your lattice aches and your head’s abuzz
And nothing is as it ever was,
Here are my sad regrets to you,
You’ve got the Flu, boy,
You’ve got the Flu.

What is it like, this Spanish Flu?
Ask me, brother, for I’ve been through,
It is by Misery out of Despair,
It pulls your teeth and curls your hair,
It thins your blood and brays your bones
And fills your craw with moans and groans,
And sometimes, maybe, you get well —
Some call it Flu — I call it hell!

By  J.P. McEvoy, published in The Arizona Republic, 1919

On National Poetry Day: Truth … (and a golden shovel)

    

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK, and the national day’s theme this year is “Truth”. To celebrate, Glosso presents two poems by British poet Marc Woodward — both of which address this year’s theme with searing and witty relevance. The first poem is a “golden shovel” — a poetry form invented by the US poet Terrance Hayes in which all the poem’s line-ending words, put together in order, form the line of another existing poem. Woodward’s poem An Egret In Jerusalem speaks for itself, but by way of a brief introduction: historically egrets used to migrate to England from the continent, but since the 1970s they have gradually become residents of the island nation. The second poem, also relevant in today’s Great Britain, plays on King Henry II’s infamous line “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”, which he is said to have uttered over Christmas in 1170 with dramatic consequences. Enjoy both poems: we’ll be hearing more from Marc on Glosso’s pages in the future. Continue reading

The Grammarians – a novel

There’s a new novel out, published earlier this month, that will probably appeal to glossophiles (and Glosso-philes) everywhere. Describing itself, as books can do proverbially these days, the novel by best-selling author Cathleen Schine “celebrates the beauty, mischief, and occasional treachery of language.” Continue reading

The Pope is allergic to adjectives (sic)

“I am allergic to those words. We have fallen into the culture of adjectives and adverbs, and we have forgotten the strength of nouns.” So proclaimed Pope Francis in a rant against descriptive words during a speech on Monday. (Sic)

 

Continue reading

A literary “fav” – and a couple of gems – from Meghan Markle

An installment of The Duchess of Sussex’s now defunct lifestyle blog, “The Tig”, has been doing the rounds, thanks to People magazine. Describing in hungry detail what Meghan Markle wrote about five years ago on the subject of “the sweetest tradition [she] can think of,” People quotes liberally from the former actress’s July 2014 post in which she listed her summer literary “favs” and those of some of her Suits co-stars. I caught a couple of little gems in The Duchess’s post — both sparkling prettily in the same paragraph. Can you spot them? (Clue: I wrote about one of them in a very recent Glosso post. The other one just made me giggle.) Here’s the paragraph in question: Continue reading

Lay, Lady, Lay (or Lie?)

Joan Llimona: Woman Lying Down / Wikimedia Commons

“Lay, lady, lay,” sang Bob Dylan back in 1969. “Lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile”

Would Dylan have been more correct to write “Lie, lady, lie“? It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? And we might have thought from the first few words that it was a song about deceit or infidelity. But it might have been more technically correct, vocabulary-wise …

Lay and lie are similar, but they don’t officially mean the same thing. (And we’re talking here about the “making horizontal” and “setting down” senses of these words – not the telling fibs or porkie pies kind of lie or lying. That’s another story altogether.) What makes things really confusing about lay and lie is that they mean different things and have different uses in the present tense, but one serves as the past tense of the other. OK, now you’re really confused. Take it away, Oxford Dictionaries: you explain it quite well. (And Glosso has thrown in some edits and examples to make it even clearer.) Continue reading