1. Last fall I attended the Annapolis Boat show. One outcome of my visit was a subscription to the boating magazine SpinSheet. It’s a pulp with lots of contributions from readers. A recent issue had an article titled something like “Sitting on the dock in the bay.” Notice that that line is a double dactyl with an accent at the end.
2. Recently my brother came to town for a visit. Among other things, he had a good time reciting a poem about a mouse in a bar being ready to take on the cat after drinking some Guinness that had spilled onto the floor.
The tone of my brother’s poem, combined with the title of that article, inspired me to write this poem. Somewhat timidly, I offer it to my discerning readers. Sorry it’s so long. Mixed meter tetrameter, rhymed couplets, mostly.
I was dozing on the pier in the Chesapeake bay
When a great big fish swam up my way.
And then the fish spoke and I really awoke!
What I tell you is true, this is no joke.
Said the fish to me, “I’ll grant you a wish
If you grant me a boon—to this poor old fish.”
Amazed though I was to speak to a fish,
I asked him “Sir, what is your wish?”
And then that fish, he winked at me.
“I’ve heard about coffee, you see,” said he
“If you could bring me a taste that I could try,
Then I would be happy, before I die.”
I pondered a while his dilemma true:
The sea would ruin the finest brew.
I thought some more and then I knew a way!
“Just bide right here and stay in the bay.”
I ran to the coffee shop of my choice,
And announced to Emma in a confident voice,
“I need a special coffee brewed today,
So would you kindly make it just my way?”
She knew her trade, this barista fair,
But she looked at me askance as she tossed her hair.
“I know your tricks, you homely man,
You ask for something hard ’cause you think you can;
But I like a challenge, so fire away.”
And she began my special brew that day.
She ground those coffee beans so fine,
They turned to dust in almost no time.
Then she pressed them flat on a little tray.
“That flat enough for your taste today?”
She asked with her eyebrow raised halfway.
“Looks good to me,” I said with glee,
“Now one more step I need from thee.
Just wrap it in your finest pastry dough,
And into the oven now it must go,
To brown that flakey dough just so.”
She took it from the oven when it was done,
Saying, “Here’s your coffee-hiding bun.”
I took the little scone out to the pier
And called to the fish “I have it here!”
Pop this in your mouth and hold it still.
When the pastry melts, you’ll get the thrill
Of the taste of the very best coffee mill.”
So he took it in his mouth and held it a while,
Then his face broke out in a great big smile!
“A taysht define I dho deglaire!”
He said as he flipped his tail in the air.
He savored it a while, then swallowed it down,
Then he looked at me and he looked at the town.
“I made a promise that I must keep
Before I return to the briny deep.
What is your wish, my clever man?
I’ll do it for you, friend, if ever I can.”
I knew right away what I wanted him to do.
“I hope this isn’t too hard for you:
I’ve always been homely, so I would wish
That you make me ever so handsome, dear fish.”
“I’ll make you like the handsomest thing I’ve seen
In all the places that I ever have been.
‘Tis easy to do.” He gave his tail a swish
And turned me into—a great big fish!
Postscript: I had planned to take this to the coffeehouse in the poem, down in the historic district in Annapolis, and read it unannounced, in the hearing of all the customers and the staff, one of whom is Emma. The day ahead of this planned performance, I was having a snack at a restaurant and doing some reading. I realized that the background music they played at the coffeehouse would interfere with my extemporaneous performance. Alas, Emma would never hear my poem, and neither would the customers. As I left the restaurant where I had been reading, whom should I run into but Emma! I let her read the poem and she laughed several times as she read it. She said she liked it. Life is good.