Learn To Whistle

A Poem About Marmaduke And The Illusion Of Freedom

The bitter cold befell the fencéd yard,
The leaves have left the bare and neighb’ring tree,
The ground betrod by beast gone packed and hard,
The birds, before they migrate, make a feast
Upon the treats left in the bauble here,
A hoisted house upon a frigid pole
A home for none, yet fashioned homely dear,
Aloft, away and safe from beastly souls.
The hound a thousand days has watched this box,
Its tenants, ever cycling, come and go.
The hound knows these alone have shook their locks,
Though how they spend their freedom, he’ll ne’er know.
But studiously has he built the skill,
More birdlike has he made himself these years,
To fly, perchance, escape th’ perennial chill,
Make bluebirds ‘stead of beasts his unchained peers.
The mind within a hound could not have known
Wholesale the avian traits need not acquire,
But start he in on whistling, not to hone
The flight which would have loosed him from the mire.
Nearby a neighbor, alien to the jailed,
Remarks with stupid brilliance how he’s failed.


Who among us, am I right? We see a greener pasture, maybe a new job. We know we need to prep if we’re going to take on a whole new lifestyle like zipping up a fresh new layer of skin. We build up the image of our new selves in our minds. Me, the new person. Me, the kind of person that lives in that new pasture. Me, adored by my interesting new peers. We get to the interview and they ask the million dollar question: “But, can you do the job?”

The one thing we forgot to prepare our minds for!

The truth, of course, is the bluebirds don’t have it so much better than a dog locked in a yard. Even the most intelligent bird in the sky, maybe the crow, doesn’t have the brainpower of a big dumb dog. Dogs seem to experience love and feelings and highs and lows, and birds just experience FOODFOODFOODSURVIVESURVIVESURVIVEHAVEBABIESSQUAWK.

Still, it might be nice to be able to fly south every once in a while. Even learning to whistle has its perks, I guess.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Hello to you.

This is Phil.


Image: “Marmaduke” by Brad Anderson

Bone Cellar

A Poem About Marmaduke And The Folly Of Man

A yellow house, the height almost of man,
Before the carnage stood, all witnessing
Along with its creator, owner, liege,
The host of its backyard, and of the siege,
And one more spectator from o’er the wall
Made large his eyes and paled as white as pall
To spy the damage done by wanton beast;
A frenzy of hellation, force unleashed
As earth became upturned at beastly rate
To undermine the house and risk its state.
And why? Wherefore this horse, this Marmaduke
Should offer pious soil such rebuke?
The master spake, addressing friend and God,
Describing why the brute should turn the clod:
“He asked for a bone cellar, I told him no.”
Thus to the planet: Need it? Make it so.
Man builds these houses o’er the dirt he’s worked
But, ne’er enough, the beast pulls back in jerks
What luxury it wants with no regard
For neighb’ring needs, for safety, for the yard.
What future holds this progress, tainted stones?
A pit beneath the surface for our bones.


Putting aside how Marmaduke managed to ask his master specifically for a “bone cellar,” we have to wonder why he would ask. Surely no paid contractor would execute it to his high standards. Plus, he himself is a digging machine.

Are doghouses a thing outside of comics and cartoons? Were they a thing in a bygone era? I’ve met a lot of dogs in my time, some of them I am lucky enough to call my friends, and none of them have had a doghouse. Is it meant to be a primary residence? Or just a big house-shaped toy in the yard? Like a toilet paper tube for a big, big hamster.

Anyway, toil as we might, our bones are destined to feed the earth some day. Have a good week!

This is Phil


Image from Marmaduke by Brad Anderson

My Kid Fell Off A Rock

A Poem About That Time My Kid Fell Off A Rock

Their mother out, both girls I had with me.
Let’s go out to the park, I tell the kids
And troop them to a hilltop where we see
A baseball game. They draw in dirt with twigs
And hop from rock to rock, the oldest does,
I hold her hand, the baby’s in the cart,
Then here comes mommy, walking, meeting us,
I turn the infant toward her so she’ll start
Exalting, cheering, what a happy thing
Except, behind me now there comes a wail
Of sudden pain and fear, the older sings;
She’s fallen off the rock. With dirt all veiled
She rises, facing us, a bloody wound
Beneath her eye for all the world to see,
A perfect walk among the park has swooned
My kid fell off a boulder publicly.
The photos of her, weeks and weekends hence,
Show not our walk, but scabbing evidence.


It’s crazy, seeing your kid bleed. You become full-body aware that you messed up; that’s not supposed to happen, blood coming out of your child. You curse the universe. You call shame upon your own house for eternity. Stupid rock. Stupid gravity.

Look, they’re going to jump from rock to rock. Or they’re going to climb the coffee table or run headlong into a goddamn wall like they didn’t see it there. It’s like the old oil prospector once said; there will be blood. And it’s going to suck. Pack bandages.

Thanks for reading. I put out a poem pretty much like this one about once a week, so if you’re looking for a way to read one poem a week without buying an anthology of poems and setting a reminder on your fitbit or whatever, you might do well by subscribing to Little Epic. Id sure appreciate it.

This is Phil.


Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Deer In The Yard

A Poem About A City Deer (And Death)

I wouldn’t say our house is in the sticks
Or even in a suburb, I’d not say.
From house to house the space is not lain thick;
Just little lawns and narrow alleyways
And concrete rules the borders all throughout,
Garages, if we’ve got them, are attached,
And densely drew our architects our plots
Atop a hill atop a swampy flats.
And so when I looked out a summer day
Into our postage stamp of grass behind
The little home we have and saw what lay
Astride our flower bed, I searched my mind
A moment, wond’ring, could we get a deer
Into our yard by chance, a stowaway?
We’ve had our share of skunks and possums here,
And cats and cats and cats come every day.
Dreamlike it lay, relaxing on my mulch,
My wife confirmed the vision was the truth.
And kids, our kids, their little heads’d approach
To peek again and laugh and sing their youth.
She phoned up animal control. They said
They live all in the graveyard on the hill
And sometimes they come out to try and get
Some food when food is thin, or when they’re ill.
The swamp is going, malls and roads spring up,
A new one every day through the morass.
So up the hill the creatures all trip up
To share our graves, to prune our leaves of grass,

Our little postage stamp we scarcely use
Except to share among these disabused.


What they should do is move the graves into the swamp and build the malls on the hillside. But then I’m not in charge of malls or graves. Some day, I tell myself.

Thanks for reading these emails, folks. I think once I have a bunch of worthy poems out there maybe I’ll try to get them into a chapbook that people can buy on a “pay whatever amount you want basis” so you all can have a little something cluttering up your bookshelves, and won’t that be nice.

Go forth and tweet about my content, I beseech thee.

This is Phil


Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen from Pexels

Growing Carrots

A Poem About Growing Carrots and People

Two methods used, though both new to the task,
To plant the carrot seeds at start of Spring;
The mother’s in a line of well-placed chaff,
The daughter’s scattered, haphazard with a fling,
Then weeks each waited in their pers’nal ways,
Awaiting blooms in stalks, and food to pare,
The mother, chasing daughters, count the days,
The daughter, daily, dancing unaware
Till summer when their plumes have reached a height,
Suspect their keepers these have amply grown,
A jungle and a line, their groupings tight,
Until they’re loosed and pulled, their lives unknown.
A system or a dance, but either way
The ground they pierce; the work that yields the play.


Where our house stands used to be a big greenhouse. We suspect that’s why whatever we plant comes up strong and abundant. When we bought the house the neighbors said “Don’t kill those rose bushes” because the old lady who lived here poured her heart and soul into them. We haven’t, yet. We cut them down to a stump every autumn and they come back thick and tangled every year, blooming multiple times well into the next autumn. Couldn’t kill them if we tried, I guess.

People think it’s hard, gardening, growing young things up into mature things. It is, but then also lots of people do it successfully anyway. Some good things in this life don’t require any extra effort or money, and those things are fine. But then some things take a little work. You have to invest some of your own love sometimes. Those things can be pretty good, too.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

This is Phil.


Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com from Pexels

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