January 7, 2006
Light Verse Poems About Palindromes and Palindrome Poems:
This section is the first of three containing palindromes, palindrome
poems and a few poems about palindromes. A palindrome is a word
or group of words that reads, letter for letter the same backwards
as it does forwards. The name "Otto" is a palindrome.
So is "Madam, I'm Adam" or "Able was I ere I saw
Elba." A palindrome poem is a poem (or tries to be) that, in
it's entirety, is a palindrome. Most of the poems (or attempted
poems) in these files are palindromic as a whole. A few consist
of individual lines that are each palindromes, though in such cases,
the poem as a whole is not palindromic.
Yes, the palindromes in this section are, letter for letter, the
same forwards and backwards. If you don't believe it, try reading
them bottom up. I begin this section with three poems ABOUT palindromes.
These poems are NOT in themselves palindromes, but contain some.
After them comes the deluge of palindromes.
Note: The samples above are oldies, as are the three at the start
of the first poem. Also, it is likely that some of the other palindromes
below have been anticipated by others, though as far as I know,
they are my own originals. It is unlikely that any very brief palindrome
has not been discovered by others. For example, after thinking I'd
discovered it, I came across "red rum murder" elsewhere.
And recently I heard one I thought I'd made up ("Too hot to
hoot") mentioned on the radio as being a classic. Since I'm
too lazy to google each of the palindromes below, if any of you
find earlier sources for any of them, let me know, and I'll remove
[Note: My version was:
Owls Quiet Tonight
Too hot to hoot.]
Poems ABOUT Palindromes:
Note: Palindromes in the following poems are Italicized. The
first three, below, are classics, not my own discoveries.
When In Palindrome, Do As The Palindromans Do
(O do! O do!)
"Madam, I'm Adam"
"Able was I ere I saw Elba"
"A man, a plan, a canal - Panama!"
Clever verbal contortions, merely...and yet
there's a hint of mystery, as if,
behind our backs, our language were trying
to tell us something (WOOF! O OW!) - for example,
that while we pilot our bodies and our world
from past to future, other beings, much like us
(if rather backward) are propelling
the same bodies and world the other way,
so that when I say "Able was I...", and travel
half a second nearer death, the one who shares me
(passes me going the other way, knowing
as little of me as I of him) loses half
a second of experience as, saying "...ere I saw
Elba", he approaches my birth - his
enwombing. My passions are jokes to him
and vice versa - "Ah! Oh!" one says, the other
snorting "Ho! Ha!" "Live!" rejoices one,
approaching innocence, as "Evil! cries the other.
Hence the mystery of palindromes: These are the
moments when our two opposite worlds become
dimly comprehensible to each other, blips
upon each other's radar in time's darkness:
When I say "When I say", my counterpart says
"yas I nehw" or perhaps, "Ya, sin ehw".
If meaning lurks - that touch of sin, eh? -
I can make but little of it. But when I say,
"Star!", he (or eh) says "Rats!" - and THAT
I can make sense of, and when I say "Able was I
ere I saw Elba" - MIRACLE OF MIRACLES! - he says
"Able was I ere I saw Elba" - Ah! Able was I
I saw Elba - Ha! Oho! Mon Frere! Mon Semblable!
Briefly we have become one - our worlds, our destinies
one! Briefly we defeat time, grow younger even as we
age; dying and borning cancel out for a timeless
instant...and then we speed on, tightly bound
in our opposite tenses, as our mutually
incomprehensible tongues, like inept poets,
yap ONWARDS! - draw no pay.
Of One Who Marched To A Different Palindrummer
It was rough for Napoleon on Elba, especially in the spring. He
felt empty and futile as he mused:
"Dash! so BORED! (No wine, sir.) Passion? No. Is sap
risen, I wonder? O BOSH! Sad..."
After all, he had little to do, after years of furious activity,
other than write letters to the local paper complaining about his
exile - for example:
"Rot I, deported on Elba - Able? No, de trop, editor."
His adjutant tried to comfort him: "Your Majesty, you have
many good years left you." Napoleon sighed,
"O lost sap! Egad! Alas! Salad age past - solo!"
"But, Sir," cried the adjutant, "You are immortal,
ageless! Why Plato says..."
Rudely Napolean interrupted:
I age, moron! Ah, Platonic "I" - not Alpha
nor Omega, I.'
The adjutant tried to remind him of happier days: "Sir, tell
me again what they said of you when you had that seditious monarchist
arrested on Christmas Day."
'Eh, ca! Napoleon! Noel! Bonaparte! Trap a noble on
Noel? O panache!'"
"And tell me again about your triumphs during the Revolution
in Paris! Please, Sir!"
"Deluge! Gap! Marseillaise! 'GARDE!' Red rages! I,
allies rampage, guled."
["Guled" = reddened, as by blood, a coinage from "gules"]
The adjutant tried to cheer him up further by applauding that past
triumph and offering wine, but Napoleon sulked, obsessed with glory
"O good one, Sire! If Elba tire..."
"Veni vidi vici..."
"...Ici vidi vine-veritable!"
"Fie - rise...no, do!...O go!"
The adjutant obeyed. Alone now, Napoleon tried to order his thoughts,
haunted by words he couldn't quite recall - "A man, A plan...no,
that's not it...Madam, I'm Adam...no no, something about being strong
before I came to Elba...what WAS it!" But the words wouldn't
come. "Let's see," he thought, "was it when my Mom
visited and asked if I was nuts because I was standing out in the
sun without hat and coat, and I brushed her off as follows:
'No, I tan, Ma - desirable was I ere I saw Elba rise' -
["rise" is nautical for "hove into view"]
"No," he mused, "that's not quite it. I must remember;
it's the key to my whole career! Perhaps it relates to my inspiration,
how I, an innocent youth, strolled the streets of Paris early one
morning, enjoying sun and flowers, when suddenly I came upon French
citizens bayoneted by the King's soldiers, bleeding into the dew,
and I was nudged into history by the Goddess of Liberty:
I saw dew! O blessed do-gooder was I ere I saw red - O! O!
Goddess-elbowed was I!"
"No, no, that's not quite it. It's remorse, that's what it
is - I rend myself, like a mangy cur scratching itself bloody, not
only for my own loss, but for what I've done to Europe:
I Live. O Europe: Eden! I'm God! O empire of millions I,
able, won ere now! Elba is no ill. I'M foe! Rip me, O dog
mine! Deep - O! - rue evil I!"
"But no, that's not it either. What the hell do I care for
Europe's troubles? Europe deserves worse for betraying me. I was
a great man ere I saw Elba! Veni, vici, vidi...or is it vidi, veni,
vici...or - O HELL! My memory, too, is going!
Ici O Vidi! Vici! Veni! Memorable was I ere I saw Elba -
Rome MINE! Vici! Vidi! Voici!"
"That's still not right! Who torments me so with these teasing
words that go into the glorious past even as they move into the
darkening future? Perhaps if I could remember the source of the
words, then the words themselves would come to me. A drink might
help: SERVANT, BRING WINE!" The adjutant trotted in with a
bottle. Napoleon sniffed it and blew up:
"Red rum! Murder!"
"Oh pardon, your majesty, pardon!" cried the adjutant.
By now Napoleon was ranting incoherently:
"Red rum! Oh wine! Mere men...I who murder..."
"Your Highness...your majesty...O tell me about your great
victory in Russia - at Borodino, where the Russian army retreated,
leaving the way clear to Moscow...".
"Fool," cried Napoleon, "Borodino was a DISASTER!
It cost me dearly! Haven't you read Tolstoy - well, he's not born
yet. But at the time I, myself, thought Borodino a triumph with
nothing ahead of me but the looting of a vast empire. Little did
I know it was the beginning of the end:
'ON I DO ROB!' was motto - bien! O La! - ere alone I
bottom saw: Borodino!"
"But, Sir, was there no glory in the battle, the bravery...?"
"Glory? Have you not been listening, lackey? War is about one
But go, go before I strike you! There, good riddance. Now, where
was I? Oh yes, who is the source of those immortal words that sum
up my entire destiny and that escape me at the moment - how frustrating!
It must have been a great poet, thus to comprehend so much in so
few words, an incredibly able poet. Wait...it's coming to me...ABLE
WAS I ERE...Oh MERDE! It's a lousy annonymous PALINDROME! Can this
be considered ART! Can this be called an ABILITY, this fudging with
archaic words, inverted syntax and oddly positioned (Ah! O!) expletives?
All puzzled together passionlessly by some pale twitching scholarly
non-entity! It all comes down to this:
On Elba rot I. Art? Oh wherefore? No, it is - O! -
PALINDROMER: tremor'd, nil, a positioner of 'er', 'eh' -
Who? Traitor! Able? No.
A Mania Called Palindrome
"Have pun, will travail" brags a silly coxcomb.
All night, hour by hour, he'll concoct a Palindrome:
Palindrome, Palindrome - to whom can he show em?
A form without honor is the form called...Palindrome.
[Note: Based on an old radio and TV western called "Have
Gun, Will Travel", whose hero called himself "Paladin".
The theme song of the TV show ran something like, "Have
gun, will travel,' is the card of a man...Paladin, Paladin, where
to you roam? A knight without honor is a man called Paladin."]
Next some attempts at palindrome poems. I've put the ones I like
best first. They suffer from varying amounts of laborious contrivance,
arbitrary intrusions of "O!" and "Ah" needed
to make them letter perfect, awkward syntax, etc. I've put first
the ones that most manage naturalness or at least wit. But I've
included (in the third palindrome section), many that seem strained
to me simply for the geeky pleasure of seeing that such odd coagulations
of words are, in fact, palindromes.
You'll notice that most of the longer ones are towards the end,
in the third palindrome section. It's hard to tell a coherent story
at any great length, while maintaining a palindrome, without strained
syntax, lots of O and Ah and Eh and other contrived interjections,
etc. The demand for exclamatory O's and Ho's make any attempt at
a long, coherent palindrome likely to result in a rant.
The first poem here is one o fmy few longer poems that manages
to be fully palindromic, while retaining sense, and with a minimum
of awkwardness. It even makes sense and might be mistaken for a
straight poem. It's a pretty good trick to incorporate "time
and tide wait for no man" into a palindrome.
Note that the titles are NOT usually palindromes. Subtitles, if
any, are usually palindromes. Note also that the ENTIRE poem is
the palindrome, not, in most cases, the individual lines (though
some titles or sub-titles are independent palindromes.) Here they
O not mood nor event;
I, awed, AM;
emit DNA edition...
to no-name me,
Nor irony nor iron.
So few senile lines we foster! -
Infant's Puzzled Nuzzle
On papa a pap?...
The World Shrinks (as we all reach out to help)
I'm an us!
Poets and Other Cheerleaders
Yap "ONWARDS!" -
draw no pay.
Newt Announces Attack on NEA
Strategy: Get Arts!
Cat In Translation
Christ Explains Consequences of Original Sin to Mary
E.g., never a MAN I gave vagina, Ma -
Clever Poet Doesn't Delve Deep, but Burns Bright
No enema tube -
but a "ME", neon!
Santa's Orgasm or HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS
Oh...OH...OH! HO HO HO!
Santa's Sleigh Meets Boeing 727
On! On! HoHo!...Oh oh - NO! NO!
Why Nast's Version Of Santa Hasn't Been Changed
Aha! Edit Santa? A T. Nast idea? Ha!
Why Walt Whitman Sings The Song Of Himself
O Gemini sin: I'm ego!
[Note: Whitman was born under Gemini.]
Ways to Allay 9-11 Anxiety
Tail a terrorist, Sir,
or retaliate fast, e.g.
How Red Ridinghood Got Eaten
"Teeth so keen!...ARG!"
The Poet Remakes His Hamlet
Avon was drab enow;
One bard saw nova.
To A Singer Who Dares To Be Different
Tiny Tim, in all, is uptone - Lo!
TRA LA! C!
O vocal art - OLE!
Not pusillanimity, nit!
Body to Soul
I am in a doom mood: anima, I.
[Note: "Anima" means soul.]
The Sound of Two Hands Clapping
Tits 'n ass sans tit.
No DNA bar abandon!
Death Respects No Latinate Distinctions
Rot is rot.
The Taste Of A Summer Dusk:
What The Hair-Dresser Did
When She Ran Out Of Wigs:
Pomaded a mop.
Why Ananias Mocked Jesus
Gestapo View Of Gypsies And Jews
Ban: NO TAROT, TORAH -
to rat on,
[Note: This one is all too accurate: The Nazis did their best
to kill off Jews (and burnt their Torahs) and Gypsies (and probably
despised their Tarot packs). So they did consider Tarots and Torahs
rot, and expected "good Germans" to rat on Jews and Gypsies,
so they could be nabbed. It seems to me a minor miracle whenever
this much straight history can be expressed in a palindrome.]
Slang is signals: "Look, Ma --
I am KOOL!" Slang
Weddings and Births
Semi-tragic cigar times.
The Barmaid's Response To "Cheer Up!"
Elan? I happily bury
my ruby lip - pah! -
Husband Rues Marriage To Ageing Wife
O, "Gable" was I ere I saw El Bago!
Sex-Crazed Weight Lifter Goes Soft On Desserts
Able man - an ab/delt Tom - was I
ere I saw mottled banana melba.
Seinfeld's Neuman Reveals Himself
Remarkable was I ere I saw Elba, Kramer!
[Note: This, as a variation on the Napoleon palindrome, "Able
was I ere I saw Elba", is particularly suitable as something
Neuman would say to Kramer on the Seinfeld show, since Neuman has
a Napoleonic ego and lust for power and brags often to Kramer.]
What Napoleon Said (in Disgust) to the English Colonel Guarding
Him on Elba, Where We Was Able to Receive Only NBC (and Jay Leno)
"Leno! Lo! Cable was I ere I saw Elba, Colonel!"
Plot to Shoot Napoleon, Code-Named "Elba OD" (And Over-Dose
Elba OD final prep:
Instruct curt sniper.
Plan, if doable.
To Margo, Who Fell In Love With A Man Who Shared Her Initials
Margo, no man is in a monogram.
A Wolf Rejoices
Mm! Met a lulu, I did!
Did I ululate! MMM!
Pin-Up Girl Lolls
Flesh! - Oh Self!
Pin-Up Girl Rebels
Star! Oh self-image!
Leg am I? Flesh?
O! Those Japanese Skin Flicks!
Dig! Nip orgy! Mmm!
My groping id!
Prince Charles Fails Diana
Id tepid, I pet Di.
Instructions to Hunters on Handling Elves Who Protect Deer
if elf ire,
pins 'em -
The Cat Replies To His Rude French Owner
"Ici! pet - SIT!"
"O get cat tact! Egotist epic, I."
Media paid 'em,
Media laid 'em.
[Note: Many of the most media-exploitive celebrities complain
about getting screwed by the media, but the media pays them first
makes them celebrities. In this poem, each line is, separately,
I, Ma, am I.
A Radical Feminist View Of Me
Man am I; ergo: ogre I, man, am.
Those Feminists Are Right About Me
I leer, ogle gab-gals:
Ergo ogre - slag-bagel! - go (REEL!) I.
Advice For Late-Night TV-Watchers
TV Goes On and On
One...late -- yet a Leno!
[Note: "One" means one a.m. In this poem, each line
is separately a palindrome.]
The Proper Punishment
Pol Pot's top lop.
[Note: But Pol Pot, leader of the radical movement in Cambodia
that wiped out millions of Cambodians, is said to have died of "natural
There Are Worse Things Than Caffeine
(not on decaf!)
Petruchio Wakes Kate, Not Sure How She'll Respond
Dame, Mate, take Mocha -
A moral aroma - Ah! Come, Kate...
[Note: Kate is the "shrew" of "Taming of the Shrew"
who weds Petruchio, the "tamer".]
Meditation Fails In A Pinch
A mammogram -
[Note: Mammograms require pressing the breasts and may pinch.]
[Note: Strictly following the myth, Prometheus was a Titan,
not exactly a God, but he was tied (bound to a rock) as punishment
for giving divine fire to man, and is associated with what is divine
in humanity. And he is also deity-tied in the sense that he was
tied up by Zeus.]
A Priest Rues His Sins With Young Girls
Did I, maiden-mad,
I'm DAMNED, I am!
Joseph, Half Asleep, Respond's to Mary's Good News
(Yawn) Madonna!? Man! No damn way!
Result of a Misunderstood Word
[Note: Have you ever noticed that, when you go past a word you
don't understand, what follows it on the page goes blank?]
Lonely, Scarlet O'Hara Ponders Her Lustful Cravings
War stifles! I die, wane -
volcano I, Tara pest.
Rape, rut - part rapture, part
separation, a cloven awe - id/I/self.
Dr. Jekyll Justifies Becoming Hyde
I man am. I'm a...oh who lives timid
stifles! I die, wane! Volcano IS.
REVERT: Rape, rut -
part rapture, part reversion,
a cloven awe - ID/I/SELF. It's dim,
it's evil - Oh who am I?
Man am I.
[Note: The Jekyll poem above is an expansion of the Scarlet
O'Hara poem above the Jekyll poem.]
Zen and the Art of Car Racing
I saw race car.
Race car was I.
Matinee Idol Admires Himself In His Latest
We few are macho, oh camera, we few.
Masseurs are Rough in Florida
Miami, Florida ad:
"I Rolf! I maim!"
[Note: Rolfing is a form of massage therapy.]
Health Nut Hitler Wonders What That Stick Is
In Mussolini's Mouth
"No, man! Nicotine!"
J. Edgar, Do You Profile Blacks?
No, I tail
if fag affiliation.
[Note: Another sad but true one: J. Edgar Hoover went after
homosexuals with a vengeance, though he, himself, apparently was
Tea Drinkers Lament
[Note: In England, where tea (often oolong) is still the caffeined
beverage of choice, lavatories are "loos", and tea-drinkers
are in a sad plight if there's no loo nearby.]
Germans Getting Drunk
Noise, hock, cohesion.
[Note: Hock is white Rhine wine. Germans are noted for drinking
and singing together noisily but that's in Munich beer halls,
unfortunately I don't know if they go for hock though
it's originally a German word and a German wine.]
Supermarket Manager To Assistant Re Re-Coding
Japanese Sea Food
[Note: "Edo" is an old name for Tokyo. Perhaps, if
there is such a crab variety, it would have its own bar code.]
Poet Loves to Turn and Twist
I pivot, revel!
[Note: The late Denise Levertov, like most well-known academic
poets, liked to keep her poems twisty and complex. Or if she didn't,
this form demands it of her.]
How a Naked Man Flees an Angry Woman With a Knife:
Another Naked Man Runs Even Faster - But Still Doesn't Make It
[Note: The two palindromes above are based on the gory episode
in which Ms. Bobbitt cut off her husband's penis. When a naked man
runs, "it" will tend to bob. Ms. Bobbitt tended to John.]
Overworked Sailors, Deprived of Rum, One Starry Night
Break Into The Rum Barrels, Get Drunk, Mutiny, Desert
Stars. Tars tired.
"Rum! Rum! Rum!"
[Note: Deserters are often called "rats".]
Absent Father's Definition
What's Really Served In Mexican Restaurants
Tacos, Nachos, Tortillas, all - it rots! Oh!...
Cans O' cat!
Why The Government Gets So Little Done
Loco torpor - O protocol!
Biologist Hoping to Receive a Female Speciman...
Ow! Tsetse testes. Two.
Toronto got no rot.
What's Your Name, Rainbow?
Sir, I'm Iris.
[Note: Iris is the Greek goddess of the rainbow.]
That Child -- Why Doesn't It Move?
No "it": Autism situation.
Aerobic German Cakewalk
"What Can Lift A Planet?" Asked Archimedes.
His Answer Divides His Audience:
"No! IT! - a lever! Revelation!"
Nobel Peace Prize Tribute
[Note: Anwar Sadat, then President of Egypt, shared a Nobel
Peace Prize with Menachim Began, Prime Minister of Israel
long ago, it seems now.]
Start of "Law and Order"
Red rumple...HELP! MURDER!
Oh serf! Ah! Self was
(I saw) flesh afresh...O!
[Note: He calls himself a serf, a slave to lust, seeing himself
newly as mere flesh.]
Eve to Adam
O help, Pa -- Apple Ho!
Eve Learned Her Lesson
Dwelt in a baobab a boa.
"Ban it! Lewd!"
[Note: Line two is Eve's reaction to the snake in the baobab
tree. She's learned not to trust snakes.]
Sage Covets Motorcycle, Though it is Illusion
Aha! Maya! A Yamaha!
How To Get A 100-Year-Old Wife Pregnant
[Note: Per the Old Testament, Sarah was nearly 100 years old
when Abraham "begat" Isaac.]
Immortal Mariner Explains Motive --
More Boredom Than Malice
Evil am I?
Sorta blah (sad me!) was I ere I saw [em dash]
albatross. Yet am I...
[Note: The Ancient Mariner revisited and it works pretty
well, I think, except that I had to spell out "em dash"
(like writing "comma" for ",") to make it work
as a palindrome.]
Pantheist Exhorts Agnostic
Sun is! I do!
God is it!
Riddle I? Ye Mock! Listen, Agnostic...
a tacit song, a net, silk... Come, yield!
Dirt is! I do.
God is in us!
Worn Out & Sober After Arduous
Sex With His Daughters:
Lot: "I regret sin. I'm a minister...
[Note: After escaping from Sodom, Lot and his daughters take
refuge in a cave. The daughters, despairing of lineage (all their
acquaintances dead in Sodom) get Daddy drunk and have sex with him.
Lot must be exhausted. Hence, he not only regrets the sin, but also
craves Geritol, a supposedly energizing product for the elderly.]
Lot's Daughters in the Cave
Tolerable epic: I peel-bare Lot.
Tolerable, Eros...O reel, bare Lot!
[Note: Here the daughters speak. Each line is a separate palindrome.]
Late-In-Term Fetus Complains of Jolting,
Wishes Daddy Would Spare Mommy
Fool! Let late
felatio do! O,
do I tale fetal tell...
Drunken Retiree Injured After
Attacking Birds With Her Umbrella
minor egret snips.
How Did The Spinster Become An Alcoholic?
Spinster frets, nips.
Ma'am, What Did You Nip?
Spinster: "Geritol -
I regrets nips."
Called An Old Maid, She Proudly Shows Her Stitches
I am a woman, air a secret...SNIPS!
Am...OW!...a Ma, I.
Young Fan Admires Fay Wray
[Note: Fay Wray, actress famous for screaming, as the girl carried
away by King Kong in the original version.]
Bitter, Fay Wray Scolds Her Star-Struck Understudy
Pose, yelp, Miss, till a sign.
I keep EEKing is all - it's simple, yes?
O Poo! Plod I!
Advice to Millay and T. S.
Toil! Edna and Eliot.
Advice to Love-Lorn Poet, Millay
And eye no honey, Edna
Poor Beetle, Gregor Samsa, Hearing Ado,
Peeps From His Room, Sees His Newly Nubile Sister
Transformed By Her Prom Dress And Exclaims:
SIS? Oh - Prom! AT 'em! Metamorphosis!
[Note: In Kafka's short story, "Metamorphosis", Gregor,
turned into a beetle, doesn't see his sister in a prom dress, but
the story ends after Gregor's death with his parents
noticing with pleasure his sisters metamorphosis into a young woman.]
Why Older Sister Changes When She's
Appointed Baby Sitter:
Sis? Oh, pro (Ma) tem metamorphosis.
[Note: "Pro (Ma) tem because she's a Mom pro tem (temporarily).
Sorry, the palindrome made me do it.]
What is Projectle Vomiting?
Metabolic - I lob at 'em!
Warning to Near-Sighted Whale-Hunters When Oprah
Is Off Her Diet:
HARPOON NO OPRAH!
Note: Find more palindrome poems in "Palindromes - 2"
and "Palindromes -3"