(Poem #1327) What We Might Be, What We Are
If you were a scoop of vanilla And I were the cone where you sat, If you were a slowly pitched baseball And I were the swing of a bat, If you were a shiny new fishhook And I were a bucket of worms, If we were a pin and a pincushion, We might be on intimate terms. If you were a plate of spaghetti And I were your piping-hot sauce, We'd not even need to write letters To put our affection across. But you're just a piece of red ribbon In the beard of a Balinese goat And I'm a New Jersey mosquito. I guess we'll stay slightly remote.
Today's poem strikes a wonderfully deadpan tone of self mockery - the metaphors hover on the verge of the reasonable, with a violent overtone that seduces the reader into believing the poem is 'serious'. Indeed, by the end of second verse, Kennedy has set the stage so that he can, should he so wish, continue the theme in an increasingly dark vein, using the not uncommon technique of a nursery-rhyme form in deliberate contrast to the content. On the other hand, there's the ubiquitous "If...", with its promise of a "but" to come, and by the time the third verse hints that the poem is, perhaps, not entirely serious, we have already started building up our expectations for the inevitable punchline. Luckily, the last verse bears the weight of that expectation - it's both nicely absurd and nicely deadpan, a combination that when it works works very well indeed. I was unfamiliar with this lighter side of Kennedy, and I must say it's a most welcome discovery. martin