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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, November 24, 2000


MY horoscope, along with passing on a rather detailed list of dreary news to come, ordered me to write a poem.

I don't think it's a horoscope's job to order you around. It's supposed to predict the future not indulge in make-work projects for readers. But it's clever, in a way. Perhaps writing a poem IS part of my future. If I write the poem, then that part of the horoscope is true. Maybe that will set in motion all sorts of cosmic falling dominoes that will result in my winning the lottery, going on a long trip or finding romance in the afternoon.

And the horoscope didn't say to write an epic poem, just a poem. It could be a short poem that I could kick out in a couple of minutes, like a limerick, or a haiku or maybe just two lines that rhyme. Or not even rhyme. Lots of poems don't rhyme. Like all the poems they run in New Yorker magazine. They have a rule: No rhyming. Also: No understanding. I've never understood a New Yorker poem. Hell, I was 42 before I even understood the cartoons. Which is the point. A New Yorker poem is a rube test. If you don't understand it, you're a rube. And everyone but New Yorker editors and writers are rubes. Here's a typical New Yorker poem:

"it's hollow here
away from Ciliad's grousing waltwinchell
swerving eloquence untainted
universal love spud ... heyaaaa
heyaaa, hooooo: secret secretion
McDonald's ketchup packet. Splurt."

Bet you don't understand it. But New Yorker editors would stand over that verbiage pile for hours, stroking their chins and divining deep meaning. You can tell when a poem's really deep because not only does it not rhyme, it doesn't rhyme with a vengeance. It also doesn't use punctuation or capitalization and the lines of the poem look like they were tossed into a box and badly shaken up.

New Yorker doesn't have horoscopes, which is just as well. A New Yorker horoscope would go like: "Aries: Your life is time soup. Stir gently. The moon is watching, watching. Heyaaaa, heyaaa, hoooo."

Fat lot of good that's going to do you. That's why the best horoscopes are short, clear and to the point: "Your life sucks. Drunk by dinner."

THE last time I wrote about horoscopes, I complained that everyone else's horoscopes were more hip and interesting. Theirs were full of love, adventure, wealth and coupons for free dinners at expensive restaurants. It's gotten worse. My horoscope not only tells my future, it tells how I'll screw it up. Like, "Fantastic opportunity presents itself. You'll blow it." And: "Your world goes into overdrive. Traffic tickets to follow."

So now my horoscope is telling me to write a poem. It's got to be a trick. The horoscope next to mine is telling the reader to stay at home because danger lurks outside. That's the kind of news I could use. My horoscope wouldn't tell me if a meteorite was coming toward my house. In fact, it'd probably tell me to go stand on the roof. ("You encounter exotic heavenly body." Yeah, at 4,000 miles per hour.)

Well, I may be a rube, but I'm not going to tempt fate. If the star gods say to write a poem, I'll do it.

A horoscope trying to be cute
Said I soon would be buried in loot
But success would entail
A long stint in jail
So the forecast is cosmically moot.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to

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