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The Floor and the Ceiling -- William Jay Smith

Carrying on with our friendship and loss theme, here's a guest poem from
Sally Canzoneri
(Poem #1086) The Floor and the Ceiling
 Winter and summer, whatever the weather,
 The Floor and the Ceiling were happy together
 In a quaint little house on the outskirts of town
 With the Floor looking up and the Ceiling looking down.

 The Floor bought the Ceiling an ostrich-plumed hat,
 And they dined upon drippings of bacon fat,
 Diced artichoke hearts and cottage cheese
 And hundreds of other such delicacies.

 On a screen-in porch in early spring
 They would sit at the player piano and sing.
 When the Floor cried in French, "Ah, je vous adore!"
 The Ceiling replied, "You adorable Floor!"

 The years went by as the years they will,
 And each little thing was fine until
 One evening, enjoying their bacon fat,
 The Floor and the Ceiling had a terrible spat.

 The Ceiling, loftily looking down,
 Said, "You are the lowest Floor in this town!"
 The Floor, looking up with a frightening grin,
 Said, "Keep up your chatter, and you will cave in!"

 So they went off to bed: while the Floor settled down,
 The Ceiling packed up her gay wallflower gown;
 And tiptoeing out past the Chippendale chair
 And the gateleg table, down the stair,

 Took a coat from the hook and hat from the rack,
 And flew out the door -- farewell to the Floor! --
 And flew out the door, and was seen no more,
 And flew out the door, and never came back!

 In a quaint little house on the outskirts of town,
 Now the shutters go bang, and the walls tumble down;
 And the roses in summer run wild through the room,
 But blooming for no one -- then why should they bloom?

 For what is a Floor now that brambles have grown
 Over window and woodwork and chimney of stone?
 For what is a Floor when a Floor stands alone?
 And what is a Ceiling when the Ceiling has flown?
-- William Jay Smith
I like this poem for a lot of reasons, including the mix of whimsy and
seriousness.  I loved the poem as an adolescent, and find that children in
my classes also love it.  There is a lovely way that Smith gets you hooked
on what seems to be a whimsical story and then makes the point about the
carelessly broken friendship with such simple eloquence in the last stanzas.
The "flew out the door" stanza brings the poem to an emotional peak and
captures that almost euphoric "I don't need you! You'll see!" feeling that
people get in arguments.  Then the quiet last stanzas show the cost of that
anger.

Sally Canzoneri

Links:

  An excellent critical essay on Smith
    http://www.danagioia.net/essays/esmith.htm

  The current theme:
    [broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/collections/42.html

50 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Michael Mennies said...

Hi,
I found your web page with the poem "The Floor and The Ceiling". I am living
in Russia and I found a poem by Smith translated into "The Little Raccoon".
Do you know this poem? Is it possible you could send me the text in English?

Thanks very much,
Michael Mennies

cheap viagra said...

The Floor and the Ceiling is an excellent poem because for me what the poem what to say us is that we can find differences in our life and that's the perfect comparison of that.m10m

Anonymous said...

Wonderful poem! One of my favourite ones.

Anonymous said...

i m in lov with this poem ;)

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