Quiet Desperation

Count carefully to 17, and it’s fine to be sylly


English jurist John Selden (1584-1654) said, “Syllables govern the world.”

Maybe syllables governed the world in the 17th century, but lately they have been treated with impudence and disrespect in the name of convenience.

There are those who think as Selden did and quite a few of them are within the sound of my voice: namely the “Quiet Desperation” readers who entered my annual haiku contest.

This column highlights some of the best entries.

While I encouraged a wide range of themes, the majority of the haiku I received focused on the new year, and it was understandable. Last year was not Miss America, particularly in the final weeks during the impeachment hearings.

Then, guess what? The new year starts off with a bang, as it were, in Iran and international tension is on high alert.

Seventeen-syllable poems might seem like butterflies in a tornado right now, but I think they are reminders of the sustenance in human creativity.

Please welcome Becky Bland and her family.

She wrote: “Des Moines, Iowa / Castle Rock, Colorado / We found a new home.”

Look at little “Iowa.” It uses up three syllables all by itself.

What are the longest one-syllable words? “Stretched,” “scrounged,” and “scratched.”

Leslie Stevens, Highlands Ranch, said her haiku was written for a ladies’ hiking group called the “Walkie-Talkies.”

“We walk and we talk / Challenged by the rocky trail / Exhausted, refreshed.”

Art Elser, Denver: “on our morning walk / a lone solitaire proclaimed / the winter solstice.”

Fran Fisher, Parker: “Marmalade cat friend / Golden age gilded by sun / His late afternoon.”

Andy Schramm, Evergreen, has a sense of humor: “Today’s top story / Violent alpine overthrow / A very high coup.”

Michael Collier, Lafayette, California: “Risky investments / The dog was chasing its tail / Calm 2020.”

In case you are wondering: “The usual way to refer to years is to pronounce the first two digits together as one number, and the second two together as another number (pearsonlongman.com)”; therefore, 2020 (twenty-twenty) equals four syllables.

Andrea Corbo, Highlands Ranch: “This lame haiku is / My quiet desperation / Written just for you.”

The words “quiet desperation” are attributed to Henry David Thoreau and they were appropriated by Pink Floyd.

Sharene Schmalz, Cincinnati: “Ravage destruction / Oh, when will it ever end? / Let it be this year.”

Looks like we may have to wait, Sharene.

Ed Billingsly, Parker: “Complimentary / Dazzling necktie, red and green / Complementary.”

Douglass Croot said his mother-in-law was an English major who was fond of saying, “Hooray, hooray, the first of May. Outdoor necking begins today.”

He added, “She has since passed away, but it is a family tradition to recite those words on the first of May each year.”

His entry gets a gold star because of the story that goes with it.

“The deliberate grammatical error is a tip of the cap to the English major who would probably share a wry smile if she were still with us.”

He wrote: “Warm day. June the first. / Bright, blazing sun. Sure is hot. / But, it could be worst.”

Dale Stephens, Littleton, who celebrated his 72nd birthday on Dec. 25, wrote, “Time is worth your gold / I am in my elder years / Who sped up the clock?”

Brett Ganyard, an Aurora musicologist, entered: “Gary Rock and Rolled / Not all that Glitters is gold / Hey - tarnished repute.”

Gary Glitter’s 1972 hit “Rock and Roll Part II” is on the soundtrack of a film too dark even for a curmudgeon — “Joker.”

Thank you, poets laureate.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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