Friday, April 3, 2009

Poem at the End of the Twentieth Century by J. Patrick Lewis

For this first Poetry Friday during National Poetry Month, I’m featuring another poem by J. Patrick Lewis, a prolific author of children’s poetry books and an accomplished writer of light verse for adults.

J. Patrick Lewis

Poem at the End of the Twentieth Century
By J. Patrick Lewis

All the clowns have changed their faces,
Fortune-teller’s closed her booth,
While the hucksters scalp fake tickets
To the Circus of Untruth.
Cadill-acrobats are tumbling
Through ambition’s ragged nets,
Greedy elephants are crumbling
Like those plaster statuettes.
Underneath the Big Top, preachers
Stuff their cant inside their can.
Get your own cut-rate redemption—
This siecle’s hit the fin.

They’ve unpacked their jackboot morals
To a melody by Strauss.
Who’s for pinning hoary laurels
On the Speaker of the House?
Mrs. Citizen, they owe you. . .
What? A fool-proof guarantee?
Watch the flim-flam man, he’ll show you
How you iron irony.
Nothing looks like Edward Hopper,
Nothing feels like Gauguin,
Dream’s about to come a cropper—
This siecle’s hit the fin.

Give them the tired, the poor and jaded
Suppositions you believe—
Slick magicians sticking your im-
agination up their sleeves.
Posh impostors deal conviction
From the bottom of the deck.
That’s the truth and truth is fiction
Lately running neck and neck.
Cops’ll beat you, think it’s funny.
Kids’ll steal your pension plan.
What else is there, man, but money?
This siecle’s hit the fin.

[From JPL: “This siecle’s hit the fin” is a play
on the French phrase, fin de siecle. This
poem first appeared in LIGHT QUARTERLY,
Spring 2000 in slightly different form. All
rights are mine. JPL]


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an extensive post about mask poems. It includes four of my original poems, mask poems written by my former students, and book recommendations.

At Blue Rose Girls, I have a second post about Magnetic Poetry, which includes poems composed online by Mary Lee of A Year of Reading, Pam Coughlan of Mother Reader, Meghan McCarthy of the Blue Rose Girls, and me.

Amy Planchak Graves has the Poetry Friday Roundup at


  1. Good thing you started this blog, Elaine! Now Mr. Lewis has a new outlet for publishing his adult poetry -- YAY!! Bring on the light verse!

  2. Mary Lee,

    I couldn't agree with you more. I do so enjoy reading clever light verse for adults.

    BTW, I've got a link to Light Quarterly in the sidebar of this blog.

  3. Wow! Pat is amazing. He is just so versatile and smart! Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Tricia,

    And add extremely prolific! I wish I could be so focused and productive.

  5. I love this guy! I hope they bury me in the library.

  6. Tess,

    J. Patrick IS quite a guy--and a topnotch poet.
    They could bury me in my basement--that's where I have my own personal library.