Arts & Culture · Poetry

Poetry Sunday: Three Poems from “Walking in on People,” by Melissa Balmain

Fluffy Weighs in on the Baby

It’s hairless as an egg—
why bother petting that?
It doesn’t purr or groom your leg,
and yet you feed the brat.

Instead of catching mice,
it grapples with its socks.
It’s never taken my advice
to use the litter box.

It can’t climb up a tree,
it can’t chase balls of string,
it leaves you zero time for me—
just eat the wretched thing.



Fed Up

Red Riding Hood’s grandma had chest pains galore,
cholesterol looming at two-forty-four,
and blood-pressure spikes. Though she kept it all quiet,
her daughter found out and imposed a strict diet.
No more would she bundle Red off with a pail
of cookies for Granny; instead she sent kale
and casseroles ranging from foul to insipid
because she had stripped them of every known lipid.
One day Red arrived to find Granny in bed.
“Come closer, my dumpling,” the dowager said.
Forget the lame cover-up tale that came later:
No wolf gobbled Red. It was Granny who ate her.


A Mother Answers the Question, “What Have You Written Lately?”

I’ve got a newborn poem.
By night she marks her beat
against the bumpers of her crib
with quick iambic feet.

From neck to hip to ankle,
her pithy lines enjamb,
harmonious in form and tone—
a model epigram.

By day she’s all sprung rhythm;
a pen just can’t contain
those assonantal squeals and coos,
that boldly-burped refrain.

I get her down on paper—
the “ultra-leak-proof” type—
then scan her ending (feminine),
and edit with a wipe.


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


balmain-book-cover_walking-in_12-1-16Melissa Balmain is Editor of Light, America’s premier journal of light verse. She teaches humor writing, poetry writing, and journalism at the University of Rochester. Her poems have appeared in such places as American Arts Quarterly, American Life in Poetry, Lighten Up Online, Measure, Mezzo Cammin, A New Book of Verse, The New Verse News,  Poetry Daily,  The Spectator (UK), and The Washington Post; her prose in The New Yorker, The New York TimesMcSweeney’s, and Success.

Her 2014 poetry collection, Walking in on People (winner of the Able Muse Book Award), is often assumed by online shoppers to be some kind of porn. She can be reached on Facebook, Twitter (@MelissaBalmain), and her website.



Poet’s Note

Like much of my writing, two of these poems grew out of daily life. “Fluffy…” is a stand-in for my family’s first cats, Jem and Scout. Although they were the souls of restraint during my two kids’ noisy, tail-pulling, fur-grabbing years, it wasn’t hard to imagine what they might really be thinking. “A Mother Answers the Question…” began one night as I gazed into my daughter’s crib and noticed the duh-DUH, duh-DUH rhythm of her kicking feet. “Fed Up,” meanwhile, was inspired by a poetry contest that called for new takes on fairy tales. Such humor contests (including those in The Washington Post‘s Style Invitational and The Spectator and other UK publications) have been a great way to jump-start my brain, and I often recommend them to my writing students when they get stuck.

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