A Phony Poem

Once, during the first two quarters of the 1952-53 school year at California State
Polytechnic College, I was looking through some sort of literary magazine. It included
some poetry which dumbfounded me. How could these be poetry, I wondered.

I decided to put them to a test. My mother had some recognition as a minor poet. She had
been writing poetry herself since her school days. Once when the students at my high
school were given the assignment to write a poem for possible inclusion at the front of
that year's yearbook, I mentioned it to my mother, asking for a hint as how to get started.
Shortly thereafter she gave me her example of a suitable poem, and it was so obvious that
I just knew I would have come up with something like that on my own. But instead of doing so,
I took hers, messed up the meter a bit and otherwise clumsified it enough that it
would not have a chance of winning the contest. It still won, and to my everlasting shame,
I never confessed that it wasn't entirely my own doing. It still graces the front of the yearbook,
evidence that my mother was enough of a poet that even a spoiled poem of hers would stand out.

So, my test: I made copies of the two published poems, whipped out a silly poem on my own,
and sent all three to her, asking her if she could tell which was the fake. She picked one of the
others and accepted the following as real.


Through the silhouette of laughter
Emanating softly, gently,
But surely,
The subtle sanguine substance
Of life

Comes, calling courageless hope
And hopeless courage
The constant conscious concept
Of death

Such subtle mockery! Yet
Through unbeginning endlessness
The difference remains the same.
Is death the beginning or life the end?
Out of here