05 February 2013

Tuesday Poem: Dante And Isaac Asimov

Dante and Isaac Asimov
agree to divide up the world.
"You can have the facts, Isaac,"
says Dante, waving his bagel,
"and the fiction. Just leave me the poem, O.K?"

Isaac thinks about that. He's
unsure of this underfed stranger.
"The poem?" "Inferno and so forth. It's
all the fame I need." "That's fair," says Isaac.

Dante spreads his hands and smiles.
"Write all you like, my friend.
They'll still remember me
when you are long forgotten.
Don't you agree?"

Isaac shrugs. "You're too
concerned about such things.
Ten books a year and I'm happy-
it doesn't matter much what on."

He sees that his plate is clean,
shoves back his chair. "Excuse me, please.
My typewriter calls. Perhaps
we'll meet again?"
"Perhaps. Enjoy your work, my friend."

Isaac is swallowed by the wind.
The poet lingers, looking at faces
swirling by his window.
"Always hurrying," he says.

Credit note: "Dante and Isaac Asimov" is from my first collection, Boat People (HeadworX, 2001).

Tim says: Isaac Asimov was a famously prolific writer on a wide range of topics besides the science fiction novels he is best known for. Dante was not so prolific (as far as we know - though some scholars believe he wrote most of John Grisham's legal thrillers under the assumed name "William Shakespeare".)

The Tuesday Poem: Marches on with measured tread.


Helen McKinlay said...

A lively poem..and a lot of fun. I know Dante...mainly from the fact that he walked a bridge on my parents' fire screen. I enjoy the way they share up the world...your facilitation of the meeting between these two works really well for me.:-)

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Helen! I especially appreciate your use of the word "facilitation" as in my non-poetic life I faciliate a lot of meetings.

If you can find a good translation with plenty of notes (I recommend Mark Musa's translation), "The Divine Comedy" is a wonderful read.

Penelope said...

Last I heard of Isaac, he was moving to New Zealand to become a writer there. I also heard he was adopting a less distinctive name so that he would blend in with the locals. Tom or Jim or something.

Wonder how he's getting on?

Tim Jones said...

Tom Asimov ... yeah, he's pretty much the #1 writer of All Blacks' biographies hereabouts. Also churns out kitchen and gardening books - it's a strange mixture.

Rachel Fenton said...

A divine meeting played out with flair, Tim. Dante's bagel should be the subject of a Phd...

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Rachel! A "bagel" is sometimes used to meaning scoring 0 in a sport or game - which raises the question: is there an encrypted series of sports commentaries hidden in the Divine Comedy? I foresee a best-seller along the lines of "The Da Vinci Code", featuring symbologists, FIFA assassins, and an angry cameo from Sir Alex Ferguson.

Matt said...

Wow. I really enjoy that. I'm a big Asimov fan. Great use of language throughout the piece. Very cool!

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Matt!