What They Said . . .
I am a shameless eavesdropper. So bad in fact, that I’ll often shush Curtis (who does not talk much anyway) so I can focus on other diner’s conversations. Yes, I’m that bad…
New Haven Train Sign
Which may be why an old sing-along-in-the-car song, called “Humoresque” aka “Passengers Will Please Refrain”, has long been one of my favorites. Set to the tune of Dvořák’s Humoresque Number 7, it begins with a New Haven Railroad toilet sign and ends with “If Sherman’s horse can stand it, so can you” and in between are snippets of conversation.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and Yale law professor Thurman Arnold take full credit for the “Bawdy Song.” In his autobiography, Go East, Young Man (pp. 171–72), Douglas notes, “Thurman and I got the idea of putting these memorable words to music, and Thurman quickly came up with the musical refrain from Humoresque.” Because I know you’re curious, here are the abridged lyrics:
“Passengers will please refrain
From flushing toilets while the train
Is in the station. Darling, I love you!
We encourage constipation
While the train is in the station
Moonlight always makes me think of you.
If the woman’s room be taken,
Never feel the least forsaken,
Never show a sign of sad defeat.
Try the men’s room in the hall,
And if some man has had the call,
He’ll courteously relinquish you his seat.
If these efforts all are vain,
Then simply break a window pane-
This novel method used by very few.
We go strolling through the park
Goosing statues in the dark,
If Sherman’s horse can take it, why can’t you?”
Your Poem Could Be A Song, too!
Go somewhere crowded (preferably public) with a pen and paper. Jot down snippets of conversations. Or, if you can’t do that, brainstorm greetings—all the ways/languages/terms we use to say hello, goodbye, or thank you. Arrange and rearrange the terms to create a poem with a melodic, interesting—maybe surprising order. Title your poem “Conversations” with the location and date. For example: Conversations at Starbucks, May 22.
Go Forth and Eavesdrop!
Set the timer for 7 minutes.
Don’t think about it too much; just do it.
*Kelly Bennett and I began this 7-Minute Poetry Challenge over 1100 days ago. We now take turns creating our own prompts to share with you. If you join us in the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge, let us know by posting the title, a note, or if you want, the whole poem in the comments.