Poet’s Corner: ‘Premium Steel Plow’ by Allen Bours

Commentary by Tark Mackintosh

folded arms The poet immediately sets the stage: Young Men’s Library Association members in tweed with crossed arms (never akimbo) prowl the streets of San Joaquin after imbibing deliciousness in the form of fruity beverages prepared by none other than veteran barman and undisputed Master of Ceremonies Ebenezer Littlejohn, also a Grand Master Mason. They are looking to sharpen their premium steel plows.

a la Byron Poet and Romantic-era playboy Lord Byron would nearly always be glimpsed leaving his carriage with his little soft collars turned down. It was a look much imitated by Americans who went to high school in the mid 19th century.

small talk Trivial conversation of the weather, and finger snacks.

French Romance language of the Indo-European family, a la Spanish. Not to be confused with F’ranch.

pretty verse Allen Bours make frequent reference to his own rhyming couplets as pretty. It is sad because the man was deluded: he was as chance or skill would have it no Lord Byron, and would die anonymous of any serious literary consideration, a clerk of sorts, in 1889.

moustache Allen is uncertain of the spelling of the word mustache; his editor J. Stevens Aldrich was of no special help in the event, suggesting mussystash, perhaps as a sophomoric ruse.

cut a dash Slice an apple, or prune it of skin. The Men’s Library Association nitwits were particularly snarly about the appetizers served by Ebenezer Littlejohn, often insisting that Ebenezer peel their fruit for them, or ‘be collie shangled’.

Ladies Judging from the rumours, ladies were not Allen Bours’ forte, but for form’s sake he was required to protest.

nice young man Well-dressed in his Byron collar, and smelling of champagne and mussy straw. The poet slumps back in his seat to mannered applause, and several unenthusiastic ‘Bravos’. He smiles without pleasure.