Anna Tambour presents 


The virtuous medlar circle
thoroughly bletted
3 Poems
Robert DeGraaff

Elegy for Brussels Sprouts

Serial Killers

No Parking in Cambridge, Mass.


Elegy for Brussels Sprouts

In wintry March these mini-pellet seeds, three per peat pot
            (émigrés from the low country),
                        sprouted into sun-porch sunlight.
My faith, watered, yanked the extra twosomes, and left a dozen stripling seedlings—
            Glints of green in a gray world.
By May’s end they had made it clear
            they meant to honor their Aristotelean promise,
                        exploding in simple symmetry
                                    at the head of my garden.
Anticipating late November, I saw them standing tall,
            plucked of lower leaves and sprouts,
                        royal palms, presiding over a field of snow
            in their usual frost-bitten but unbowed splendor,
                        fibrous trunks too tough for axes.
But in June, the wily one, garden invader, in guise of groundhog,
            passed plastic fruitnets and chickenwire fences,
                        and, rising on husky haunches,
                                    made lunch of their vitals—
Since when, fluffed with random foliage,
            they slouch, disheartened, groundhog fodder.

Serial Killers
Last summer’s cuddly kittens
patrol the grounds like lions,
lie in tiger ambush underneath the lilies.
They duck beneath the grackles’ dives,
grack back in toothy moues,
execute a pas de deux with squirrels across the grass.
They crouch for hours beneath the feeder;
in five-foot leaps they try to swat
the jittery finches from their perches.
At last the wrens have built a nest,
their house now nine feet up,
but still they dare not lay.
For days I haven’t seen
the ruby-throated hummingbirds
that drank here by the minute.
Meanwhile, old milk containers in our fridge
fill up with food donations
dumped nightly on the floor of the garage:
a crunch of mumbled moles and voles,
starlings, dark-eyed juncos, chipping sparrows,
a faded robin, barely bloody.
Indoors, the cats wrap themselves around our legs,
Gaze at us and wink, subside into the carpet.

No Parking in Cambridge, Mass.
A meter maid patrolled a narrow road;
More than one foot from curb, by traffic code,
No parking; violators will be towed.
First Monday of each month, street cleaners showed,
From April to December (move your Ford);
A vicious maid strolled down a gritty road.
No wrong direction parking, letters glowed;
Main roads declared off limits when it snowed;
No joking, violators will be plowed.
Ten bucks a day for storage when you’re towed;
All parking by permit alone allowed,
A prison maid to see you’re not paroled.
Within ten feet of hydrant, traffic flowed;
No standing; heavy fines to zone your load,
No snorkeling, violators will be drowned.
To get a permit?  Simple.  Change your mode:
Insure, inspect, and register Mass. Code.
The demon maids control the moral road;
No sinning, violators’ souls explode.


Robert DeGraaff is one of my favourite poets. He is also a professor of Victorian Literature at St. Lawrence University (Canton, New York). He also tills an enormous garden, which is only one of the many places where he says he "communes with Bufo americanus whenever I get the chance."  He is "determined not to let anything pass unappreciated", loves tennis, squash, and fishing, and has a definite preference for warts over slime.


He is also the author The Book Of the Toad: A Natural and Magical History of Toad-Human Relations, one of my all-time favourite books, for poetry, prose, trustworthy information, outstanding art, and joy. I am quite serious that every library, personal and public, is missing something as important as if you forgot to breathe, if it doesn't include The Book of the Toad.

I am so besotted with this book and the poems and prose of Robert DeGraaff, that I wrote to him to tell him so, and thus began my love affair with his poetry.

Contact Robert DeGraaff at
rdegraaff (at)

The virtuous medlar circle

is part of
Anna Tambour and Others

"Elegy for Brussels Sprouts", "Serial Killers", and "No Parking in Cambridge, Mass." copyright © February 2006 by Robert DeGraaff. This is the 1st world appearance for each of these works.
These poems appears here with thanks to Robert DeGraaff, whose payment was less than a brass razoo.
This is part of a series of invited pieces by people I find deliciously inspiring, always a hoot, and who write like a bletted medlar tastes. A.T.
The Virtuous Medlar Circle © 2004 - 2006