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July 8, 2011

Poetry Friday--Archy and Mehitabel

Perhaps somewhere in the recesses of your mind, the pair, Archy and Mehitabel, ring a bell. A musical duo? The tap-dancing sensation from the 1930s? A cockroach and a cat?

If you said "a cockroach and a cat," you are correct. Archy and Mehitabel were the creation of the humorist and newspaperman, Don Marquis.
THEY ARE THE MOST UNLIKELY OF FRIENDS: Archy is a cockroach with the soul of a poet, and Mehitabel is an alley cat with a celebrated past--she claims she was Cleopatra in a previous life. Together, cockroach and cat are the foundation of one of the most engaging collections of light poetry to come out of the twentieth century.

You may have heard Garrison Keillor read one of the 500 sketches that Marquis wrote about the characters, on The Writer's Almanac (Minnesota Public Radio). Here he reads "the lesson of the moth," which begins:
i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense
It ends:
but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

Don't we all wish to have something we want badly enough that we would consider self-immolation? Okay, maybe not self-immolation, but at least something that we feel strongly about!

'Tis the season for moths and porch lights, go outside and enjoy it!

Head over to Wild Rose Reader for this week's Round-Up.


  1. His voice so adds to the poem...it reminds me of the activity next door every night - our neighbor has a bug zapper which seems to work over time with zealous self-immolators.

  2. I found Archy and Mehitabel when I was in high school. Fond memories...maybe it's time for a re-read!