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October 10, 2008


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I think it's about sex.

hm. please go on....!
mitch s.

So earth1 (chick) got pregnant (hence woe). Either earth1 or earth2(the child) brought forth earth3 (further offspring) to earth4 (the surface of the earth). Earth3 laid earth1/2 (its parents) in an urn (made of earth5, mud). The last two lines are self-explanatory.

Sarang is right. It is definitely about sex. Earths 1 and 2 represent the rough-riding body parts, masculine and feminine, that unite to create the shape of earth 3, bringing forth fruits and vegetables from the fertile earth. "Earth laid earth" is a remarkably explicit version of what happens. My friend Edwin A. Robinson told me that if you take a poem by Keats or Shelley and you substitute "earth" for each of the nouns in the lyric, you will get a similar effect.
Mac Cain was obviously not his brother's keeper or his sister's sleeper or the mister's weeper or the mother's sweeper or the doctor's beeper or the father's peeper or the baby's diaper.

Actually, here's an alternative take. The first four lines are, as before, about procreation. However, the "earthen trough" is a vagina rather than an urn; 5-6 describe coitus; what the poem is saying is that after their childbearing years, the couple had prodigious amounts of sex (hence "earth enough").

wow, i'm really excited by the responses to this exercise. in my judgment, the first person to respond in some detail was sarang. it's also true that "teddy roosevelt" offered a more substantial response but there can unfortunately be only one winner. The prize is a copy of the very wonderful book called "the river of doubt," which is about teddy's very arduous trip to the jungles of south america after he got depressed in the u.s. if sarang will send a mailing address to, i'll get the book to you.

i have to admit that, when it was written in the tenth century or thereabouts, i'm confident that this poem was intended to be about jesus. but the meaning of poems can change just like everything else!
mitch s.

"Come to my dry den and we'll moisten the cave of nakedness for thee, O sultan."
-- Mac Flecknoe

I don't know. People had sex in the 10th century, too, you know. That's how they had people in the 11th century.

As a Johnny-come-lately to this discussion, I would score Sarang's alternative take on top, but would also give full marks to LO's intuitive understanding of eleventh-century demographics, Teddy R.'s able riff on the Cain in McCain, Mitch's generosity, and Deborah O.'s cheerily irrelevant plug for John Dryden's overlooked verse.

this is so hilarious! :-)

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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This Way Out

by T.P.Winch

Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.



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