Custom tells us that it is not the solstice of June that begins summer, but the weekend in which we find ourselves. Memorial Day, with its somber call to remember those who served and were lost, has become for America a day to gather not only in memory, but in prediction of making memories in the summer weekends to come.

Tomorrow we will offer you the poem quoted by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his famous Memorial Day speech, but for today, we introduce you to Melissa Balmain, whose balletic skills at light verse have a wide and wildly appreciative audience. Read on and see why.

 

Smitten in Spring

I yelled this morning at my son;
I criticized my spouse.
Ten minutes after I was done,
a hailstorm hit our house.
It pummeled the whole neighborhood—
chipped roofs, denuded trees,
stripped paint from metal, clay, and wood,
concussed the chickadees.
A mile away, we later heard,
brief showers sifted down;
the only place the gods had stirred
was our small slice of town.
A next-door neighbor swigged her beer,
raked dogwood blooms aside,
and mused aloud, “Why us? Why here?”
“Just rotten luck,” I lied.

 

© 2006 Melissa Balmain; reprinted from Mezzo Cammin

 

 

Enfant Terrible

There’s a truth that most people prefer to keep quiet,
unshared with their friends and their kin—
but it’s high time that everyone ceased to deny it:
a newborn is ugly as sin.
You can dress it in taffeta, ribbon and lace;
you can scrub it each hour of the day;
you can name it Belinda Veronica Grace;
it’ll still look like rump roast manqué.
Any puppy or kitten is sweeter by far,
any lamb, piglet, gosling or foal—
even marmoset infants make ours seem sub-par—
so if having a baby’s your goal,
don’t expect me to call the thing “darling” or “cutie”
or “precious” or “dear little elf.”
Only one child has ever been born a real beauty:
the one I gave birth to myself.

 

From Walking in on People © Melissa Balmain, 2014. Used by permission of Able Muse Press.

 

Your Rejection Slip, Annotated

Dear Writer [who’s not dear and cannot write],
Thank you for showing us your [so-called] work.
[It’s obvious that you’re a clueless jerk
and typed the thing while higher than a kite.]
Although we read [three words of] it with care,
we’ll have to pass [a kidney stone or two —
or so it seemed when we were reading you.
We also felt like tearing out our hair].
Unfortunately [fortunately] we
get many [better] manuscripts each week
[spam, takeout menus, notes from creditors],
so [if we want to keep our sanity]
we can’t give [drunks like you] a full critique.
Good luck [at Betty Ford],
                                           The Editors

 

From Walking in on People © Melissa Balmain, 2014. Used by permission of Able Muse Press.

 

wvfc poetry balmain headshopMelissa Balmain’s poetry collection, Walking in on People  (Able Muse Press, 2014), was chosen by X.J. Kennedy as the winner of the 2013 Able Muse Book Award. She edits Light, the country’s oldest journal of light verse, now online at www.lightpoetrymagazine.com. Her poems and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in American Arts Quarterly, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Poetry Daily, The Spectator (UK), The Washington Post, and Success, where she is a columnist. She has won national journalism honors and been a finalist for the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, and the X.J. Kennedy Parody Award. She teaches writing at the University of Rochester and lives nearby with her husband and two children. To learn more, please visit www.melissabalmain.com.