Wesli Court                





for Jean, June 16, 1956 – 2006


Half a century has passed beyond

The pale of years since you walked down the aisle

To join me where my pastoral father waited

To preach at us before he tied the knot.

We stood there at attention to hear the Word

As I had done each Sunday all my life —

Now, one last time, and you became my wife.

I can’t remember anything I heard

While we stood there; I don’t remember what,

If anything, I thought. My father, sated

At last, gave us his blessing and our trial

Was over. We were able to abscond.


Alas, my dear, your trial had but begun.

Most likely it will end with a final pun.


            Five years more have passed us by since then

And we are at that pass again. A lass? —

You haven’t been for half a century.

A lad? Aladdin has been bottled up in me

For just as long. No doubt it’s far too crass

To mention things like this. Remember when

I couldn’t say “remember when” because

There was no “then” and hardly any “was”?


Well, here we are, still idling — at least we’re running,

And we may make it for another year

Of doing this and that…a bit of this,

Bestowing now and then an evening kiss

And then a dab of that. Alas! I fear

I see you turn your ears off to my punning.




On an Aphorism by Wallace Stevens


If farmers had summers ten years long

What tomatoes they could grow!

If all the string in the world were tied

To a dragon kite ten cubits wide,

And a wind as wild as the sky is blue

Were to blow from the west from me to you

Through a farmer’s summer ten years long,

What tomatoes would we grow?

And if sailors had universal seas

What voyages they could take!

Their anchors would wind from the deep forever

On windlasses that turned and never

Stopped in the wind that never failed

To fill their sails though they never sailed

Across our universal seas

On voyages none ever take.




On the Occasion of the Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia, Breaking His Left Foot While Hiking on His Family’s Property in California.


Muses, make ye mournful sound!

     Gioia’s pičde-sinistra broken

On his native stony ground

Ere a pathway could be found

     Or a gasp of pain be spoken.

          Dryads! Nymphs! Yea, Nereids!

          Come and mourn in myriads!


Artists, take thy paints, thy palettes,

     And compose ye endless posies;

Jongleurs, pen ye cheerless ballads;

Chefs! Attention to thy salads,

     For our Gioia discomposes

          While the sorry Nereids

          Mourn in doleful myriads.


This is, alas! catastrophe

     For Athabaskans as for Nome —

Shall those Alaskans atrophy

Who practice craft at work or home?

     Shall those Oneidas nigh to Rome

          Join the weeping Nereids

          Mourning in their myriads?




Alas! Alas! Catastrophe!

     Minstrels sing their sorry ballads!

Athabaskans atrophy!

     Chefs weep buckets in their salads!

Lachesis, Clotho have their trophy

          And the seeping Nereids

                   Sniffle for long periods.




I often refer to my wife Jean as “Cat Central” because usually the cats we welcome into our home come to us through her, though that’s not aways so. It’s true of the two most recent, though. Last year Buddy, a gray tiger Tom, simply showed up to sit next to her every time she went out onto the porch of our home in Oswego, New York, and sat on the stairs. So we brought him back to our retirement home in Dresden, Maine.

Jean went to pick up our little granddaughter Phoebe, from daycare in Augusta, about fourteen miles down the road when a little stray tortoise-shell showed up and came home with her. Jean dropped her into my lap where I was sitting when she arrived. In despair I admonished her that I had asked her not to bring any more cats home after our two latest, Seeger and Sweetie-Pie, had died, because we were getting too old and senile to take care of them.  Furthermore, it turned out that the new female didn’t much care for Buddy, so I named her Claudette McFang. However, after she was spayed, Claudette decided our neutered male wasn’t so bad after all, and she became his pal, though he obviously felt she was an affront to his dignity.

Claudette went missing for the first time one night this summer, and she didn't come home in the morning. We thought some critter had probably grabbed her in the woods around our house. Buddy wasn't acting right, either, so had to go to the vet who told us he had two infected teeth that had to be extracted. We left him overnight so that the operation could be performed the next day.

Jean came into the bathroom the following morning while I was taking a shower to tell me that the vet had just called her to say that Buddy was dying of some arcane virus. She was crying, of course, as Buddy was primarily her cat. The poor animal was apparently sicker than we had thought or than the lab tests had shown. We went to the vet and had him put down. Then Claudette showed up soaking wet.  At least I won’t have to add her epitaph to this sequence:




Or, Chasing Erato




The first cat that we ever had

Was always good and never bad,

And so we petted him, of course,

Till he was stepped on by a horse.





A backward tiger, Regit

Betook himself to college,

Became a UConn husky

To gain a bit of knowledge.


We took him home with us

Where he used his education

To live a wise and happy life

Till he took this long vacation.




 If someone got into the tub
             Scooter fished for toes
             Till he fell in and stood forlorn
              In water to his nose.

 But he was born a wanderer
             And often left to roam
             The neighborhood and far beyond
             Till he found another home.



 The words upon his banner, if unfurled,
             Would read, “The greatest cat in all the world
             Lies here below puffing on his hookah.
             Make your obeisance to majestic Pookah!”





Yes, he was well and truly named,

Our craziest by far.

Cross-eyed and manic till one day

He ran beneath a car.





Bianca was a lady,

Plouffy as a pillow,

With one blue eye and one of green,

As graceful as a willow.


Smoky was her fellow,

Black to the nth degree,

As manly as a feline male

Could ever hope to be.


They could not be apart for long

Where she went he would follow,

So they have gone where lovers go

And left behind a hollow.




Seeger was part Siamese

And black as any knave —

Although he looked piratical

He wasn’t very brave.


If any enemy approached

To threaten our front door,

He’d jump upon our mailbox there

And emit his alto roar.





Here lies pretty Sweetie-Pie,

Black of pelt, amber of eye,

Who loved to purr and take a nap

Upon an old man’s welcome lap.

May her repose be dark and deep.

Let roses grow where she must sleep.


© 2011 Wesli Court


Wesli Court looks a great deal like Lewis Turco.