Sunday 8 January 2023

Five Poems by Neal Whitman


The Last Laugh

“What’s the use of talking.”

Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard

Hudson the Bouncer

at the Last Laugh Saloon

invented a cocktail

The Cherry Orchard

it was served

in a highball glass


14 inches tall

it was said

when emptied

you felt ready

to walk out

walk out on your wife

oops, I meant your life

The Last Laugh

just don't forget to leave a tip



Pepperoni Pizza just before Bedtime


I lost my left shoe.

What I then did 

was to stand to the right 

of a full-length mirror,

placing my right shoe 

between me and the mirror.

I side-stepped my left foot 

into the shoe reflected in the mirror

and my right foot 

into my right shoe.

What I next did 

was to execute a left-face turn

and walk through the mirror

and into the next dream



If I Say It Won’t Work, My Clients Go ALL IN!


Long ago, in my “old life”

as a university professor, my true calling

first fell into place when I was on the telephone 

with a colleague from another institution. 

We were planning a presentation at a national meeting.

To this day I can clearly recall the conversation

 She was asking me, enunciating slowly: 

“Neal, do you have EE LECK TRON ICK MAIL?” 


Never having heard of it, I replied, 

“Guess not, since I don’t know what it is!” 

She explained and I replied, 

“Are you serious? 

That will never work!"


It was my old college roommate 

(he made a gazillion in the video gaming industry) 

who saw my potential when 

I told him my reaction to PONG 

when it was first introduced: 

“Are you serious? That 

will never work – hitting a little dot 

back and forth on a TV set?”


He told me I could make a mint 

as a Negative Indicator. 

My biggest score was when

Apple put me on their R & D team 

working on a voice activation system. 


It would control home security, 

lighting, music, and so on.

To which I opined: “Are you serious?

That will never work!”

The head honcho jumped out of her chair.

“That’s brilliant. But, the name is too long. 

Let’s just call her Siri.” 

My bonus blew the lights out!


A Punch in the Nose or a Bop on the Head

    a prose poem (if you think that is a kind of poetry)


…the only person you can trust is an absolutely selfish person. He always runs true to form.  But you take somebody with an underlying kindness, and he might fool you.

John Steinbeck, Sweet Thursday


There are two kinds of ways to look at the word kindness. Yes? No? Well, there is one kind of person who is friendly, generous, and considerate. But, it occurs to me there is another kind of person ... someone for whom kind is a key construct in how to look at and interact with the world. One kind of those kindness persons sees two kinds of people: those who see two kinds of people and those who do not. Now, stick with me. It turns out there are two kinds of those “two kinds of people” people: those who see two easygoing kinds of people ... dog versus cat people is a classic, along with PC versus Mac people. But then there is the kind who put people into two pugnacious groups, notably people who agree with them and those who do not. What do you think about that, Buster!



Martial Law

prompted by Henry Howard’s translation (1545) of Martial’s “Happy Life” epigram*


Martial, the things that do attain

the happy life be these I find

the simple preferred in the main


the less said even more to gain

then friends do not feel left behind

Martial, the things that do attain


the local, not the express train

frequent stops bring pleasures to mind

the simple preferred in the main


balm offers to lessen the pain

rubbed gently with melon rind

Martial, the things that do attain


having doubt need not be profane

if doubting your doubt intertwined

the simple preferred in the main


my years have passed, fewer remain

still infinite time to be kind

Martial, the things that do attain

the simple preferred in the main


 *Thinking aloud to himself, Roman poet, Martial (40-104 C.E.) listed for himself what would make a happy life. Each of us is left to choose for ourselves, as I did and invited you, the reader, to do so, too.


Neal Whitman is Professor Emeritus, University of Utah School of Medicine, where he helped pioneer the use of poetry in the teaching of medicine. He took up writing his own poetry in retirement. Neal lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife Elaine whose photography and his  poetry are inspired by walks along Monterey Bay. In 2022 his poetry won honorable mentions in the California Federation of Chaparral Poets and the Ina Coolbrith Circle, as well as awarded best foreign poet in Italy’s I Colori dell’Anima competition.


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