David Floren

Mark Twain Is Plumb Wrong

[N.B. This poem is a reaction to Mark Twain's notion that '[w]ar talk by men who have been in a war is always interesting; whereas moon talk by a poet who has not been in the moon is likely to be dull.' (source: Bartlett’s Book of Quotations, p.623 §16) .]

* * * * * * *

He might not wear his hat, but soon,
Very soon,
Mark Twain will survey your town,
Plumb your head and call you 'Clown.'

He'll bark 'Who're you to muse on the moon? ',
Chew his wet cigar and choose to frown.

He'll choose to frown for sure.
Half his frowns are half-smiles.
But you get to choose his reason.

Methinks he fears the old ruse of false allure.

Some ears hear how seasons
Whisper to pass the torch.
After a time your eyes see her
Illumed in solar torchlight.

We who've seen such beams
Hit their mark, as stars fling arrows
To glitter our wounded porches,
Have certainly 'been in' the moon.

I hope this deft being-there soon narrows
The spacious and clever clef he uses
To take that stroll where he extols
Where having-been-there controls.

It takes a real toll on, and confuses
The very real goings-on of hardscrabble muses.

We who thought the true ever loses
Cheered for once when it withstood.

When we could honestly state
'A politician sometimes makes good
on a promise.' Apollo 11 and J.F.K.
(Even when born of Cold War hate) .

We who were floored
by the impact of Earthrise,
William Anders' famous picture
Strode through a perceptual gate.

To see our home emerge blue-white
From the thick crude of space,
Changed how we see this place.

We who've heard the scratch,
The squawks of radioed confirmation,
Sensed the raw elation of Houston:
We’re fish hawks and weary heron
Winging home a hard-won catch.

Listen, your attention is demanded:
'Tranquility Base, The Eagle has landed.'

When hearts in Houston rose
To bear-hug those in their safekeeping,

Any knave of a reporter
That interviews the Armstrongs only
And confesses to think no one else
Possesses the requisite knowledge
Ought to try absorbing the fists,
Jeers and wild stories of wives,
Navigators and straight-up,
double-shift-pulling engineers
With solutions divine!

But Mark Twain is right to draw his quibble line.
More than half of this drivel is less than fine.

Just know that you could be in the moon,
Even on or under it,
And shine.

[11-11-2002 Armistice Day (or Veteran’s Day) , Berkeley, CA]

Poem Submitted: Saturday, February 9, 2008
Poem Edited: Sunday, February 10, 2008

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Comments about Mark Twain Is Plumb Wrong by David Floren

  • David FlorenDavid Floren (2/10/2008 7:16:00 PM)

    Thanks Tai Chi Italy. I can visualize you doing your tai chi thing in the Piazza de Machiavelli, but I'm afraid I'd have to eat a slice of thin crust at that wonderful pizza joint in that square in Firenze.

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  • Tai Chi Italy (2/10/2008 6:24:00 PM)

    God you are a tongue twisting poetic smithy for sure! Wicked work, for the reader too, but my tongue feels so much looser! lol love the feeling, Tai

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  • David FlorenDavid Floren (2/9/2008 12:54:00 AM)

    Several caveats:
    (1) Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors, but I chose to challenge him on a specific point of order and I believe were he alive today to discuss this with me he'd agree with my position.
    (2) My position is that if you interpret Twain's comment literally, that means that Li Po, Tu Fu and hundreds of other incredibly gifted poets would be talking out of their ***es, and we all know that can't be the case.

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  • William Jackson (2/9/2008 12:44:00 AM)

    Interesting retort to Twain's observation that there is nothing quite like actually experiencing something for one's self, and that experience makes for a better spring board when examining the truths of life.

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