Thursday, January 8, 2009


Billy Ray Barnwell here, I have decided to foist upon you, I mean let you read, one of my poems and if the mood strikes me I may just foist, er, share, a whole bunch of them, I don’t know, let’s just wait and see what happens with “my Muse” as Diane Chambers played by the semi-famous actress Shelley Long used to say on the old TV series Cheers, I forget which Muse she thought was hers, but I looked “Muse” up in my big desk dictionary and found out that A in Greek mythology the Muses were the nine daughters of Zeus (pronounced ZOOHS) the king of the gods and Mnemosyne (nih-MAH-suh-nee, Greek is really odd, it looks like muh-NEE-moh-sign to me, but what do I know) who was the goddess of memory, a word to the wise here, we get the word mnemonic from her which some people call pneumonic but that is something different altogether, like hung and hanged, and B their names, the Muses I mean, were number one Calliope which is pronounced not KAL-ee-ope but kuh-LYE-oh-pee, number two Clio which is pronounced KLEE-oh, KLY-oh, whatever, number three Erato which is pronounced EHR-uh-toe, not uh-RAH-toe like you prolly thought, number four Euterpe which is pronounced you-TER-pee, number five Melpomene which is pronounced mel-PAH-muh-nee, number six Polyhymnia which is pronounced just like it looks, pah-lee-HIM-nee-uh, number seven Terpsichore which is pronounced not TERP-sih-kore but terp-SIK-uh-ree, go figure, number eight Thalia which can be pronounced the-LYE-uh, THAIL-ee-uh, or THAIL-yuh, no one seems to know for sure, and number nine Urania which can be pronounced either you-RAH-nee-uh or you-RAY-nee-uh, take your pick, and back to the original list C each of them presided over a different art or science, sort of like Saint Jude in the Catholic church is the patron saint of hopeless causes and Saint Christopher used to be the patron saint of travelers before they demoted him, the Catholic church I mean, not the travelers, and with a little help from AskJeeves on the Internet I also was able to discover what those different arts and sciences were that the Muses presided over, so ready or not I’m going to tell you, Calliope was the Muse of epic poetry and rhetoric, Clio was the Muse of history, Erato was the Muse of erotic poetry, Euterpe was the Muse of lyric poetry, Melpomene was the Muse of tragedy, Polyhymnia was the Muse of sacred hymns and harmony, Terpsichore was the Muse of music and dancing, Thalia was the Muse of comedy and idyllic poetry, whatever that is, and Urania was the Muse of astronomy, please understand that this is all according to AskJeeves and if I looked somewhere else I might get a whole different bunch of answers, but it occurs to me that there are a whole lot more arts than sciences in that list, in fact astronomy looks like the only true science in there to me, history is more of a social science which as we all know is not a science at all, it’s one of the humanities or whatever they’re calling it these days. In the other column on the same page in my dictionary was an entry called “muscae volitantes” that caught my eye so I kept on reading, the pronunciation was mussy voh-lih-TAHN-teez which sounds like the name of a chorus girl from Bayonne New Jersey to me but the definition said small motes and threads that seem to move about the field of vision, due to the presence of cell fragments or other defects in vitreous humor and the lens of the eye, and in Latin mussy voh-lih-TAHN-teez means fluttering flies, now there is something really scientific, I mean my eye doctor just calls them floaters, won’t he be surprised when I tell him they’re not floaters, they’re mussy voh-lih-THAN-teez, boy you can sure learn a lot from reading the dictionary. Anyways, herewith, for your reading pleasure, is a poem:

The Ogden Nash Travel Agency

The next time you go to Cambodia,
Be sure that you see Angkor Wat;
The Khmer Rouge will all say hellodia,
But some other natives may not.
Avoid controversial discussion
In the capital city, Phnom Penh;
Prefer Chinese cooking to Russian –-
You may want to go there agenh.

When sailing upon the Aegean,
Remark on the dullness of Crete.
To do otherwise is plebian;
‘Twill help make your visit complete.
Don’t make the mistake in the Bosphorus
Of calling the place Dardanelles;
A slip here could mean total losphorus:
We’d be laughed at from here to Seychelles.

While backpacking through Micronesia,
You’ll have, we expect, a real ball!
The folk there go all out to plesia;
Some natives wear nothing atoll.
They’ll know that you’re not a “wah-heeny”
If you don’t sport an all-over tan.
For modesty, take a bikini;
It’s called the American plan.

A weekend in Mesopotamia
Or one on the coast of Brazil?
Do both! Go on, splurge! We don’t blamia
For wanting to have a real thrill!
So float down the mighty Kaskaskia
Or tour Vladivostok by bus;
Just one little thing we would askia:
Please purchase your tickets from us.

Okay so that poem is not epic or erotic or lyric or idyllic, what I hope it is is humorous, so I guess the ancient Greeks would say the Muse that inspired it was Thalia, of course an ancient Greek would not have ever heard of most of the places in the poem so it would be like Greek to him or her if he or she were not Greek already, personally I would have had a lot of trouble trying to keep all the gods straight if I had been an ancient Greek, I think monotheism is so much simpler, which reminds me of the time at the office when Kermit Plodkowski, our self-avowed atheist, was promoted to Distinguished Senior Member Of The Technical Staff and people were congratulating him after the meeting and I said to him well Kermit, I guess with your being a self-avowed atheist and all you have nobody to thank but yourself, he got a strange expression on his face but he didn’t walk away like George Barton did, he was much too distinguished to do that, or maybe he was shocked to hear someone actually put the subject of a gerund in the possessive case, would you look at that, the computer tells me I have passed twenty thousand words, and this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.

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