“To Make An Omelet” by Pat TompkinsBuy the Poem
Pat Tompkins is an editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poems have appeared in Haibun Today, Thema, A Hundred Gourds, and other publications.
Clichés are normally something poets seek to avoid. They’re too easy. They’re so embedded in our common imagination that they’ve ceased to harbor any surprise. They’re like the old uncle at your family reunion who tells and retells the same stories. So why not have some fun juggling them, see what jumps out? Sure enough: there’s the rhythm, plain as day. The clichés that stick in your head have no more than four or five heavily stressed syllables (a BIRD in the HAND is worth a SNAKE in the GRASS); they repeat sounds in subtle and not-so-subtle ways (A bird in the hand is worth a snake in the grass); and their tone leaves no room for argument (A snake in the grass is worth two fat cats. A leopard can’t change its kettle of fish). This game is fun.
The poet herself arranged her lines in the shape of an egg. The designer is the one that gave it a drunken angle, about to topple. The typeface for the body is already cracking so it’s easy to imagine the point of impact, all those cliché parts splayed across the floor, some of them bumping together into even more disjointed un-meaning. The title is arced to suggest the outline of the whole egg or a large shard that might remain intact after the fall. Alternately it might be a finger, hooked to pull the egg to its doom, attached to someone eager to find out what delicious new turn of phrase might be born from the mess on the floor.