Sunday May 26

ChappellFred Fred Chappell  is the author of a dozen books of verse, two story collections, and eight novels. A native of Canton in the mountains of western North Carolina, he taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for over 40 years. He is the winner of, among other awards, the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, Aiken Taylor Prize, T. S. Eliot Prize, and Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Prize seven times over. He was the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997-2002.

Fox and Corncrib
—Horace, Epistles I, 7

Once there was a slender, supple Fox
Almost as skinny as a fashion model.
By moonlight you could count his every rib.
Nosing a lucky hole in a corncrib,
He slid through like a straw into a bottle
And gobbled corn like a malnourished Ox.

A Weasel who observed the episode
Wondered how the Fox could retrace his way.
“My friend, you’ve swollen like a bloated Toad.
Appears to me that you may have to stay
Enclosed until you slim to exit size.
So: meditation, daily exercise—
And readjust your gluttonous attitude.”

“but why should I adopt a sour, ascetic
Regimen when all is copacetic
Status quo? I have here close at hand
Plenty to satisfy my appetite.
No more the anxious hunt across the land
All the howling, hound-infested night.”

“Do you never long for the good old times?
The splendor of the unobstructed moon,
Breezes bearing the distant belfry chimes
At midnight, scouting the mountainside alone
By starshine—”

                           “I prefer my corncrib life.
It lacks excitement and variety
And I regret I am no longer free
To roam. But now I have security—”

“Yet here comes Farmer, sharpening a knife.”

Tact Intact

A Crab suggested that he mediate
When Whales and Dolphins threatened mutual war.
“You must not let it happen as before;
War is not graven by the hand of Fate.”

“Your busybody effort lacks effect,”
Said Dolphins. “Where is your authority?
You do not brave the turbulent ocean sea,
So you are no one whom we should respect.”

Likewise the Whales: “Oh, Insignificant
Crustacean, why do you insert your presence
Between us and the Dolphins’ foul malfeasance?
We might as well take counsel from an Ant.

“Why spurn my gift for mild diplomacy?
Already I have brought you to agree.”