Bedtime for Bert and Annie

August 1, 2013

The ships shift, almost collide. One salutes.
The other abides in the evening dusk. It seems
a certain Captain Pigeon has been piped aboard
the Nanny G—only to strut and chuck
with an infinite pomposity atop the masts.
An admiralty of feathers. Poop on the poop deck.

Now, think of this foolery in clear simple terms
and it goes away, nearly. The captain could have been
a Captain Hawk, or an Admiral Albatross, imagine that!
But he wasn’t, just a lowly fowl out of Queens, New York—
and he took control with too much fanfare.
Even Bert and Annie knew that.


Mutiny is caused by words without a plan.
Why, they even killed the ship’s only goat
in spite of Pigeon’s request to spare him.
When he commanded that the great goat must appear,
whispers of blasphemy echoed throughout the ship.
Bring the animal back, mates, bring him back to life.
Bert and Annie…O, they deplored the sight!

Staked, skin stretched, his feet and legs at impossible angles:
here is the goat king of the Nanny G
in all his majesty, splayed and displayed—
only his privates worth keeping.
Pull down his pants, lads, wiggle his frankfurter.
Do it with relish—because Bert and Annie are asleep now,
and they are crying, ‘perish, perish, perish’.



2 Responses to “Bedtime for Bert and Annie”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    Yes, a bedtime story with a dark underside is a fair account. A horrid dream. Maurice Sendak meets Mutiny on the Bounty. A battle between sanity and, if not quite insanity, then something quite close to it. The intrusion of fantasy into the ‘real’ world. The ‘adult’ world colliding with the ‘child’ world. A mash-up between rational grammatical sentences and short fragmentary ones. The twilight of consciousness just before sleep…
    You do see where I’m going here, John. The goal is to get the kind of disturbing reasonableness you find in the Brothers Grimm. Or Pinocchio.
    The cast of character is pretty much made up by me. Bert and Annie are meant to suggest Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street. I wonder, why did I need two kids here?

  2. John Stevens Says:

    I love the sounds in these lines, Jim: the rhythms, the repetitions and echoes.
    My mind doesn’t quite know what to do with the cast list. Are these characters internal to the poem, or are they external cultural references that I’m missing in my ignorance?
    Well, I’m going to imagine that it’s a bedtime story for two children, full of its own comic characters – and a disturbing underside.

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