Editor’s Note

October 26, 2019
Dear Reader,

    It is raining in St Louis as we prepare this issue for the press. It seems appropriate weather for All Saints’ Day, when the year turns dark and inward, but, independently of seasonal associations, I like rain for its own sake. It often happens, as it did to me this morning, that walking along under an umbrella one suddenly awakens to the sound of the rain spacking against the fabric. One notices the reflections on the wet brick of the sidewalk, the iron railing glistens, and the robin perched in the holly seems full of scruffy significance.

    Why is it rain that wakes me up? I couldn’t say. I think I’ve made that walk a hundred times for every once I’ve lived it. I remind myself of the man in Martial’s epigram - tomorrow, he says, always tomorrow, that he’ll start to live. It seems such a simple lesson - that the wise have lived now - and so it seems silly that one needs to be reminded of it as often as one does. But I forget easily; I’m led on by the slightest distraction. And I’m presumptuous enough to say it’s not only my problem. Eight hundred years ago in Cologne we hear the complaint ‘similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.’ We’re all of us hoping to stay awake, and we’re all of us surprised, each time we awaken, that we had slept so readily or so long.

    The Alembick, whether or not beneath its superficial frivolity and high-spiritedness you can believe it, is a serious project. Its goal - our goal - is to remember to live, and to live the only time we can, which is now. You’ll notice this issue is particularly full of light verse. It’s what we happened to have on hand, and perhaps you’ll say that it cuts against the grain of what ought to be our seasonal theme of inwardness and reflection. Maybe so, but even play requires presence of mind. It takes as much composure, as much discipline, as much attentive quiet to sit down to write a bathic ode or epigram as it does to sit down to anything more wholly serious. The mind waiting for words is like the mind at prayer.

    A. Pinguis (ED.)


    We believe it fair to present our readers' views without censorship or further comment.

Dear Sirs,

    I’m writing to protest in the strongest terms the publication of your periodical, the Alembick. Never in my life have I had the misfortune to encounter such a mangy, oafish, and utterly contemptible rag. It is, without a doubt, the most execrable magazine in existence. I hope, Sirs, that you may be persuaded to cease your sophomoric efforts and to close down immediately. The world will be a better place without your work.

Yours, sincerely,
    (Nigel Featherstone, Marquess of) Bunbury


Dear Sirs,

    It was with the utmost outrage that I first encountered your horrid paper Sunday last. I don’t know what the devil has gotten into you, but the rot that you’ve put out is extraordinary. Ghastly! Poems; prose; those short, witty thingies - vile, the lot of it. Ought not to be allowed! 
    If you’d have been in my regiment (and I sincerely wish you had), I would have had the lot of you lined up against a wall and shot. Prejudicial to the public morale and all that. Got to make an example! I’ve written to the PM to see if there isn’t some legal way to get you shut down. Until then, a turn in ranks might knock some sense into you.

Yours, etc,
    Maj. PRetQ Sir Horace Stuffington - Windbag, DSO, OBE, BEM


Furthermore, we believe it behooves us as gentlemen to give our thoughtful opinion in response to our readers' requests for guidance. This is not legal advice.    -EDS.

Dear Sirs,

    It is with heavy heart that I write this letter. I shouldn’t like to trouble you, but I fear that I have no one else to whom I can turn in this matter. As you have a reputation as men of discretion and learning, I hope that you will help me.
    My son, Gervase, is such a promising boy. Tall, handsome, so very clever, he’s a delight to his father and me. He has been reading the law at Lincoln’s Inn and hopes to be called to the bar in a very short while. I assure you, gentlemen, that Gervase is a bright boy and will make a wonderful lawyer. All the same, he’s taken up with a villainous little band of fellow-students and quite forgotten his studies. He’ll meet them at the Robe and Wig, or else the Three Scrolls, and they’ll stay out all night talking of - gentlemen, I hesitate to say, but you must know the truth - talking of poetry!
    Time was that Gervase would come home spinning fancies about John Austin and Bartholemew Gosnold, but now he’ll hardly talk of anything except Byron and Keats. His father and I are worried half to death, and I have no idea what to do.
    Oh gentlemen, won’t you talk some sense into my son?

Your humble servant,
    Constance Donothing


Dear Madame,

    If we may presume to say so, we are as shocked as you. The very idea that a young man should idolize such poets is more than we feared was possible even in this ignorant and degenerate age.
    He ought to have learned long before reaching the Inn that Keats' method allows of no imitation, and everyone knows Byron's mode of life was fundamentally unsound. We recommend a course of humanistic reeducation, beginning with good old sensible Horace. Should he desire lighter reading in the modern languages, we don't hesitate to recommend Ben Jonson and the learned Dr. Donne as models of decorum. 
    Under this program we may hope for a speedy recovery.

As ever, madame, your gallant advisors,


Divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro…

This mightn’t be exactly what they meant,
    Classically, at least, when they praised the life
Of quiet leisure in the country - but
    Making those changes that centuries demand,
You’d surely say that this is close enough
    And ought also to qualify for praise.
Let others heap up riches - piles of gold -
    Spend their life on work as forgettable
As any other mortal enterprise.
    I’ll enjoy my role, humbler, if you say,
Of student with a graduate fellowship -
    Surely our version of the ‘college living.’
It’s nothing like the salary you’d draw
    Out in the real world, before or after,
And certainly precludes all luxury.
    Though it pays less, so it asks less.
Who needs to live among the bourgeoisie,
    Once you’ve got the basics provided for?
I’m not ashamed to go by foot or bike,
    Live on instant noodles and the library.
This life is pleasant: time to sit and watch
    Students on the quad, evening light on brick,
The entire scene aglow with mellow sun
    As the year slides on into October.
Or later, once the winter’s come, how sweet
    Laying long abed, one’s love in one’s arms,
While all outside is storm and sullen snow.
    What’s out there that’s worth leaving this to find?
Don’t bother answering; I know already
    Just what you would say. Sure it takes some will
To turn down biglaw and its hundred thousands.
    Maybe you think you won’t lose a thing by it.
But you’ll lose years - and though it’s now somewhat
    Unfashionable, let me remind you:
The years are running out even as we speak.
    All too soon “what then?” answers with silence.
While fate allows it, let use take advantage
    Of endowment funds, grants, and scholarships -
A brief respite of time lived leisurely -
    Nor too eagerly strive for later gain.


Loudly conducting his business,
Drinking coffee and taking a call,
What I find as I try not to listen is
That he’s talking of nothing at all.


Freedom of speech,
Won with violence.
Did the Founders consider
The virtues of silence?


One thing the world’s forgotten, to its loss:
One’s born human but learns humanitas.


Cursed be contracts, property, and torts -
A pox on casebooks, on every teacher warts!
I dreamt the law would bring me untold riches;
Instead I’m stuck with numbskulls, bores, and bitches.
If only I’d listened when they said ‘don’t go’ !
There’s no kind worse than self-inflicted woe.


The Battle for Terminal F Food Court

Dear Sirs,

In light of certain recent Statements made by the President of the United States upon the celebration of the American Day of Independence, I have undertaken to write a brief history, in Verse, of an oft (and, might I add, sadly) o’erlooked episode in that Nation’s War of Independence. A pale imitation of the Eminence of Longfellow, Layamon, and Watterson, I hope it is, nevertheless, an Entertainment suitable for your esteemed Publication. I present, Sirs,


America’s got glory,
But one historic story
Stirs patriotic hearts with its report:

Hear tell of Old GeorgeWashington,
Who led his loyal countrymen
In battle at the Terminal F Food Court.

My son, you must remember
On an evening in December
How the Continentals readied for a fight.

They crossed the frozen Delaware
To catch the Hessians unaware
And kick them in the derrière
In the night.

Bold Washington, the general,
(The best of men and venerable)
Bade them march to Philadelphia - not a peep.

For there, just off I-95,
If our country wanted to survive,
They had to catch those Hessians fast asleep.

It was early in the struggle,
and the Congress was in trouble
As the British then could dominate the skies.

They backed their harsh authority
With air superiority
they’d fighters, bombers, rotaries, drone spies.

While the skies went uncontested
The Americans were bested:
They couldn’t move by daylight without fear.

For His Majesty’s fighter-bombers
were often wont to bother,
Harass, annoy, and molestate their rear.

Worse yet, in terms logistical,
their transports packed with victuals
kept garrisons supplied with food to spare.

The Yankees tried besieging,
cut supply lines and went reaving,
but the British troops munched on without a care.

The French had sent a fistful
of anti-aircraft missiles
But even those broughtWashington no luck.

For the Redcoats (at their leisure)
deployed counter-battery measures,
electric jamming, flares, and pilot pluck.

Washington’s desperate last resort
Was to take the British airports
And deny the RAF its landing-strips.

(In the latter 18th century,
land-based airports were obligat’ry,
as you can’t land fighter jets on wooden ships.)

At the Airport all was silent
Unprepared for struggle violent
As the Hessians slumbered off their Christmas feast.

They’d controllers in the Tower
Who with radar the skies scoured,
But unwatched were all approaches to the east.

Colonel Rall and his Lieutenants
(with the Regimental pennants)
Slept tightly in American’s Admiral’s Club.

(AAdvantage Platinum Cardholders
Receive discounts on all bar-orders
Free wi-fi, and some complimentary grub.)

Their men camped in the concourse,
tossed uncomfortably on the hard floors
or curled up on the seats as best they could.

While out across the tarmac,
Yankee troops prepared to a-ttack
Checked their flints, formed ranks, and silent stood.

At Washington’s command,
the grenadiers in the van
Quietly advanced on term’nal F.

They garrotted the sentires,
rammed the ramparts and made entries
While militiamen advanced upon the left.

Imagine the confusion,
Hesitation and bemusion
As the Hessians woke to find the Yankees there:

They fled to’wards the food court
And though some of them were stalwart,
Some threw surrend’ring hands into the air.

Colonel Rall and his Lieutenants
(with the Regimental pennants)
Heard the din and sallied forth into the night.

“Halt this madness!” cried the Colonel,
and despite the din infernal,
the Hessian troops formed ranks and held them tight.

The grenadiers in the van
Tried to match them man to man,
and the Food Court then became a roiling fight.

Soon the sulfur’d smell of powder
And the scent of spilled clam chowder,
Told Washington that Rall would not give way.

He rallied Contientals,
and then through his oaken dentals
Cried “Charge!” And plunged into the bloody fray.

The valiant Contientals
Earned themselves a heap of medals
As they broke the Hessian lines by Gate F2.

They chased the frightened Hessians
From Sabarro and from Freshëns
Jamba Juice, Au Bon, and Hudson News.

Then the struggle was soon ended,
And the Yankees wounds were mended,
and the Hessians bonded under lock and key.

As the sun began to waken,
A rapid stock was taken,
and Washington knew his army had to flee.

So he told his sappers outright,
“Take your semtex and your thermite
And do your worst to all the aircraft here.”

And explosions soon were sounded,
And the RAF was grounded,
And the Yankees all let out a grand old cheer.

America’s got glory,
But one historic story
Stirs patriotic hearts with its report:

Hear tell of Old George Washington,
Who led his loyal countrymen
to victory at the Terminal F Food Court.

                                M. DE PLOUM