Barth Landor - "Verbiage" and "Will You Marry Me, Simone Weil?"


Sunrise and I am on the qui vive,

a dawn sentry on red alert

at my post out back.

Pink spiderwort mass at the fence,

and daybreak flushes out the dark figures

in the ink-patch I planted yesterday:

a yield of verbiage taking shape,

rows of purple phrases which this morning

– once again! – look shabby and bruised.

Who abused my wordcrop overnight

after I left it looking so fine?

Who conducts these midnight raids

on my precious expressions,

turning them into rubbish-heaps?

In my old cracked adirondack

I pick over dead matter

looking for something to declare itself.

Is ‘verbiage’ still in leaf and should I leave it be,

or pull it out and toss it in the compost bin,

a future nutrient for some other term?


I kept it in its place.  I made my peace

with that bed of letters one morning in June

when the coreopsis was on the move;

I ceded my garden of verse to

whatever predator time would let in.

The phone rang, and I went indoors;

it was my lawyer, calling

with news about my divorce.

A scattershot of weekend dishes

pocked every surface in the kitchen,

and I did a load, and the urgency

of verbiage – yes or no? – disappeared,

having had its moment in the sun.

Was it the mot juste after all?

I hardly know, and no longer care –

and who will even see my backyard harvest but me?

It’s just that while I searched and nursed

as daylight was leaking in,

I felt like a child of Israel,

who wrestled with an angel of God.


Will You Marry Me, Simone Weil?

Will you marry me, Simone Weil,

so we may suffer this world as one,


You are not lovely, but you are true,

and I yearn to search for God with you.

Susie Rakosi, although you won’t recall me,

in high school your hips and thighs

turned me into a hallway-scholar;

I applied myself to study them

as if they were Fermat’s last theorem.

Three decades on, if your shape-times-motion

Still offers a solution for the eye,

would you amble up the aisle as my bride?

Virginia Stephen, shall we be wed?

We will float on waves of words

that could never let us down, for we love them so.

Mornings making phrases for the printer’s ink,

and evenings reading novels in the sitting room –

we’ll find salvation in English sentences,

whose rise and fall will always buoy us.

If I am wearing out my bended knee

proposing to so many of you,

it’s all because there are so many of me.

You, who chatted with me in the park

while your dog chased a tennis ball;

You, Tina Fey of TV, and you, Joan of Arc

(the passionate image of you, that is,

in the painting by Bastien-Lepage) –

Will you make me the happiest man alive?



Barth Landor lives in Chicago.  In 2004, his novel 'A Week in Winter' was published by the Permanent Press.'

Posted on December 17, 2013 .