Poetry corner

Allan Lagumbay of the Pomona Library Special Collections room was paging through a folder labeled “The Poems of P.C. Tonner” — Patrick Tonner being one of Pomona’s pioneer residents, and apparently one of its pioneer poets to boot — and found verse he thought was up my alley.

Tonner isn’t exactly Lewis Carroll but his tragic acccount of eating away from Pomona is fancifully amusing. And to think, this was before Pomona had Donahoo’s. Here’s the poem in full:

I’ve Done A Lot Of Eating

I’ve done a lot of eating,
In two and fifty years;
I’ve eaten Chili peppers,
Until my eyes rained tears;
I’ve eaten potatoes by the score,
Produced from Irish bogs,
And then I’ve yum-yummed with delight,
O’er luscious snails and frogs.

I’ve ate the rancid porpoise,
Atlantic tempest tossed,
When fishing near Newfoundland,
All other food being lost;
But in ten days thereafter,
I touched at Doublin Bay,
And dined from beef from Mullingar,
And drank my pousse cafe.

And so I’ve been accustomed,
To take things as they come,
When lacking Irish Mountain Dew,
I’m satisfied with rum:
And if the chicken’s old and tough,
But fair and cleanly served,
The langour of my appetite,
Can scarcely be observed.

But, Shade of Epicurus!
My hungry jaws rebel,
Against the tasteless cooking,
Of this high priced hotel.
Against the lack of beefsteak,
With platter cold as stone;
The scarcity of bread and tea,
Would make an hermit moan.

I came from close to Baldy’s Peak,
My appetite was fair,
But weary of my mountain home,
I sought the ocean air,
And came to Santa Monica,
To swell a Sunday throng,
But in a careless moment,
Brought my appetite along.

And this is why I sadly write,
Of what befell me there
I never thought the landlords fed
Their transient guests on air,
And so when in my innocence,
Returning from the Beach,
I sat me down to breakfast,
And asked in joyous speech, –

Just for a bowl of mush and cream,
While they would cook my steak;
I found my joy was all a dream,
And I was full awake, –
And then I almost fainted,
My eyes grew blurred and dim,
The mush was tapioca,
The horrid milk was skimmed.

I turned me to the waitermaid,
And thus to her did say,
“Oh, waitermaid, just take that stuff,
And cast it in the bay;
Let it be food for fishes,
Or for the Leopard seal, –
I fear me much from this entre,
I’ll have a sorry meal.”

She looked at me with pity,
And archly turned her head,
But as she reached the kitchen door,
She rubbernecked and said
“Don’t be so awful dainty”,
(It struck me like a screech),
“You ought at least remember,
That you’re camping at the Beach”.

But soon the waitermaid came back,
A trencher in her hand,
Four plates were set upon it,
She placed it on a stand,
That stood hard by convenient,
And she brought them all to me;
I wipe my swimming eyes with grief,
To tell what I did see. –

A grizzled oal potato,
One little plate did hold,
Another had two biscuits on,
That made my blood run cold;
The third one was a beauty,
It held an ancient steak.
I pointed to the fourth and asked –
She answered “Flannel Cake.”

And then I thought of Hamlet
And mused the royal Dane,
Had never had such fearful cause,
To drive him full insane;
The skull of ancient Yorick,
I swear by great St. George,
Could not affect his royal throat,
As this drew up my gorge!!

I looked around for sympathy,
But to my shocked surprise,
I saw but smiling faces,
With laughter lighted eyes,
And when I left the table
And bolted for the door,
The smiles were changed to laughter,
Then broke into a roar;
When I met the guilty landlord,
And shook my fist in hate,
And pointed to my vacant chair,
And to the ancient steak.

But I thought upon the holy day,
And of the name I bore,
But frankly, friends, I must confess,
That inwardly I swore.
I swore by the Great Horn Spoon,
And by the mermaids’ caves,
I swore by Neptune’s trident,
That stills the stormy wave;
That when I left Pomona next,
E’er thitherward I’d roam,
I’d pack my grip, and then I’d leave,
My appetite at home.

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