Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon Category Archive: Poetry

Bring Your Junk!

Posted at 6:00 AM on May 27, 2010 by Dale Connelly (39 Comments)
Filed under: Poetry

I've looked at animations and read through descriptions of the BP oil well jamming procedure now underway, injecting "heavy mud" into the feed pipes - a process known as "top kill". I understand the simplest explanations ("It's like trying to intentionally block up a toilet") and am baffled by much of the rest.

I've heard that if this doesn't work, the next step is to try to pack the leak with chunky debris - a "junk shot". I certainly get that. I know all about junk, having worked to accumulate tons of it through most of my life. In fact, I'm excited by the idea because it creates a rare opportunity in our throw-away culture - the chance to dispose of some useless things heroically.


To seal an oil well underwater
You will need some heavy fodder.
Start with thick and gooey mud
Then pack it full of extra crud.

Softballs, chunks of worn out tire

Spools of unused speaker wire.

Costume jewelry, plated gold 

and all the Chryslers still unsold.

Every bit of spare debris

should come, enthusiastically

from anyone who rides in cars.

For this calamity is ours.

DVD's you didn't watch.

Old tapes - video and Scotch.

Carpet scraps and mailing tubes.

Open board games. Rubik's Cubes.

Empty out your basement clutter
Every golf club. That damn putter.
Piles of Christmas cookie tins.
We'll plug the gusher with our sins.

From physicians - rubber hammers 

Plus their awkward beside manners.
From the stoners - bongs and joints

And from spin doctors? Talking points.


And still the void cries out for more. 

We've never gone this deep before.
So to the hungry wellhead bring
Our excess wretched everything!

Lawyers! Give us spite and greed!
(you've got extra, guaranteed).
TV stars could spare some vanity. 

NASCAR drivers, their insanity. 


Commentators? All your scorn!
Webmasters! Unload your porn.
From farmers take redundant crops

From Lady Gaga? Unused props.


Gather up each proud and smug
opinion for this oily plug.
Can written nonsense trigger clogs?
Try stupid, pointless rhyming blogs.

Then pile it all into the sea

And with the profits from BP

We'll force this cocktail down the tube

To plug the hole that leaks the crude.

What sort of useless debris could you contribute to the cause?

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An Epic Weekend

Posted at 6:00 AM on May 17, 2010 by Dale Connelly (33 Comments)
Filed under: Poetry


I hope you had a lovely fishing opener weekend, whether it was spent in the heart of the whirlwind on I-94 north of the Twin Cities, or fleeing from the madness in some other direction, like, say, into the dark comfort of a movie theater.

I headed north, and things being what they are with traffic and timing, will return as a live presence in the studio tomorrow. My trip has actually had more to do with golfing than fishing, but I have been thinking about our scaley friends and those who chase them around Minnesota's lakes. It put me in mind of Longfellow's epic poem "Song of Hiawatha", which is made up of over 5300 unrhymed lines that are each 8 syllables long. "Hiawatha" rhythm was modeled after the trochaic tetrameter of another very long poem, the Kalevala of Finland.

Each of these poems can be as tedious as waiting for traffic to clear on the interstate around Albertville on Friday afternoon or Sunday evening. You will be pleased to see that my inspiration is only 7 verses long, though you might still lose interest about halfway through. Not to worry - the ending is inconclusive. The combatants live to fight another day.

By the shores of Didju Catchmee
Where the fishes meet their slaughter
Stood a walleye called Nokomis
Who, of course, was quite enormous.
Covered with a lakey liquid
Dripping from his fins and flippers
Dripping from his scales like diamonds
Dripping into shining puddles

Said Nokomis to me loudly
In a voice so damp and boastful
With a venom underlying
"I have you again eluded!"
"I the fish you came to butcher."
"Took your worm, I did, and then some."
"Took your rod and reel beside it."
"Now your pride is mine forever."

"Nasty fish," said I, repugnant.
"Do not taunt me with your blather."
"Do you think I care a farthing
That your carcass still is swimming?"
"I came here to drink hard liquor
quaffing beers with my good buddies."
I am eating cheese all weekend.
I like nachos more than walleye."

Quite enraged was great Nokomis
By my strange but true admission.
Wheezing through his gills he fixed me
With one frosted glassy eyeball.
"Are you saying you pretended
to be seeking my destruction
and you never meant to catch me
Thus my freedom is your doing?"

"Or would you have killed me gladly
and discarded me to fester
while you dined on corn and lactose
In a campground near Bemidji?"
Carefully I framed my answer
For the walleye called Nokomis
He, the mighty water dweller
He could walk on land, the devil.

"What I meant to say, Nokomis,
is that you have drained my motor
of it's energy to catch you.
You who tore my line asunder
With my rod and reel absconded
You who dove beneath the surface
You who ate the worm to spite me
Bested me with fishly courage."

Hearing this, the fish Nokomis
Stood a little taller, even
Than a fish should stand at lakeside
And with one more glare of loathing
Dove into the churning water
Took his leave of me completely
Once again a slimy victor
On his favorite sporting weekend.

What is your favorite tale about the one that got away?

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Another Classic Ruined

Posted at 6:12 AM on April 29, 2010 by Dale Connelly (31 Comments)
Filed under: Poetry

Radio Heartland has tickets to the Americana Showcase at the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul, this Friday night at 7:30 pm. Featured performers: Dana Cooper, Brandon Sampson, David Stoddard and Dan Israel. We'll close entries at 1pm today.

Enter the drawing.
Obey the rules.
Good luck!

I did not see any of the Goldman Sachs executive's testimony before a Senate committee earlier this week, but I hear it was 10 hours of riotous fun. Unfortunately I don't have the kind of time necessary if one is devoted to understanding the intricacies of last years financial meltdown.

However, we're in luck. Billy Bovid Capra, a celebrated artist, a tenured professor of English at Barth College, and an actual he-goat who happens to write verse, did watch the event.

It took him a few days to digest the proceedings, but America's poet ungulate pushed this gem under my door early this morning.


IF Kipling Worked for Goldman Sachs

If you can keep your wealth when all about you 

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 

If you can say "I'm Fab" when all men doubt you,
And not be bothered by their shouting too;

If you can speak while subject to berating,
Or, being summoned, blithely testify
Or, being questioned, overlook the baiting,
With answers that don't undermine our guys;

If you can deal - and move the product faster;
If you can wink - and not reveal your game;
If you can claim you didn't cause disaster
And shrug when Senators assign you blame;

If you can hear your e-mails without chokin'
Twisted by knaves to justify more rules,
Or listen as your careless words are spoken
And keep your eyes as blank as stagnant pools

If you can make one heap of **itty dealings,
And sell it to some marks at hefty cost,
And when they lose, not let it hurt your feelings
And never think at all of what they've lost;

If you can face the unforgiving Senate 

With six hundred minutes of evasive fun - 

Yours is the mirth of those who hold this tenet:
"We'll do our thing - though it leaves you undone."

Have you ever memorized and recited a classic poem? How did it go?

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Marking Territory

Posted at 6:00 AM on March 3, 2010 by Dale Connelly (49 Comments)
Filed under: Goats, Poetry

Thanks to those who have volunteered to write a blog during my next scheduled absence during the weeks of March 29th and April 5th.

So far I've heard from Barb, Beth-Ann, Clyde, Barbara and Donna. That's five of ten slots spoken for. Old hands and newcomers are welcome. There are no rules or restrictions on repeat guesting. It would be rather silly of me to suggest that someone had posted too often, given that my personal count is approaching 400 entries.

Anyone?

Animals in the News

Earlier this week a goat led police on a chase that started in a Taco Bell parking lot and led to a dead-end alley in Odessa, Texas (thanks to Beth-ann for the tip). Also, bears are beginning to emerge from hibernation in Yellowstone.

These two stories are written from the human perspective, of course. Thus a goat at Taco Bell is a problem to be solved by police, and a grizzly bear out of his den is a threat and a reason to carry pepper spray and a gun, even though carrying the gun in Yellowstone is legal but firing it is not. Odd.

It made me wonder how an animal might view these developments, so I took a chance and sent a quick e-mail query to Billy Bovid Capra, America's Poet Ungulate.

Sure, he's a goat, but he's also a tenured professor of English at Barth College, and is as quick as Clyde when it comes to tossing off a few lines of verse. Here's his response.

Stand Off

Drop that chalupa, and put up your hooves.
You are going straight back to the pen.

At the Taco Bell drive-up a goat might get served
But I wouldn't attempt to say when.

Don't you bleat or try anything tricky or sly,
Just a flinch and my darts tranquilize you.

And don't fish for leftover food in the trash.
Quesedillas alone supersize you.

Over there! With the fur! Name is Yogi, correct?
I am not scared of you although I'm shaking.

See this gun? And I've also got peppery spray.
No, my beer and chips aren't for the taking.

I came to see nature and dine in the wild.
And not to be dinner instead.

If I were a bear facing me, as you are
I'd surrender and go back to bed!

All you four legged animals better stay back.
I'm a dangerous creature. Beware!

Stay away from the places I've marked as my space.
Over here. Over there. Everywhere!

What do you consider to be your territory?


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The Cremation of Frosty

Posted at 6:00 AM on December 14, 2009 by Dale Connelly (22 Comments)
Filed under: Poetry

Last week we heard Debby McClatchy's musical setting of the Robert W. Service poem, "The Cremation of Sam McGee", by request from Cynthia.

I've always loved Service's dark humor, and it got me thinking about another wintertime story that could benefit from his ominous, creepy tone.

There are weird things found on the icy ground
when the children play in snow.
And the local streets offer eerie treats.
This is something they all know.

In suburban yards you will find the shards
of these games and what they cost.
But I do not say much about the day
that I made a man of Frost.

He was big and white with a pipe stuck right
in a mouth that seemed to float.
He had coal for eyes and his nose likewise
was a button from my coat.

But one crucial part made the trouble start.
A silk hat I found by chance.
When it sat on top something weird went "pop"
and the dude got up to dance.

To my knees I sank in a chilly bank
as I watched the ice go wild.
I was quite afraid as it laughed and played.
And then terrified. It smiled.

As it thumped around (How I hate that sound!)
I knew all the fault was mine.
I had rolled his base and I built his face.
A cursed, frosty Frankenstien.

Next my heart went cold as the monster bold-
ly said "now let's have some fun."
He was made of flakes, so to kill him takes
something more than just a gun.

Then he thumped away and I heard him say
he was going straight downtown.
I stayed right behind as I racked my mind
for some way to bring him down.

To the village square he raced unaware
of the holiday patrols.
On these roads so slick, he'd be picked up quick,
like a sack of donut holes.

But he wasn't collared though one cop hollered
to "stop" 'til he was hoarse.
True, the demon paused, but our traffic laws
are not evenly enforced.

Now to disobey is one certain way
to get pounced on by the coppers.
In a moment more we had squads galore.
The sky thundered with their choppers.

Beset from the air by the searchlights glare
I sensed how the creature felt.
Under all those spots, pounded by those watts,
he began to slowly melt.

Though I'd packed him tight, in the heat and light
his torso was getting thin.
The eyes sank away and I cringe to say
that his frosty skull caved in.

But the beast talked on. And my snowy spawn
had this final threat to speak.
As he waved goodbye he said 'Don't you cry,
I'll be back again next week.'

There are strange things done in the name of fun
by the tykes who play in snow.
You will not forget what you soon regret.
That's the way it tends to go.

I am haunted still by the winter's chill
and the burden I was tossed.
To have won renown as that kid in town
who could make a man of frost.

Have you ever built something out of ice and snow that made you proud?

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