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Feb. 3, 2014
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I always thought yeggs were something like schmucks,

Although they’re really safecrackers, though no one knows why.

According to Wikipedia, “schmuck” meant penis in Yiddish, 

But because of its vulgarity it got euphemized to “schmoe,”

Which became the basis for the vile Al Capp’s schmoos

(The precursors, if you ask me, of smurfs).  “A coupla yeggs”---

I probably read it in a Damon Runyon story, who was my favorite

Writer for a while after college, after Proust.   “Get the money”

Was Runyon’s favorite saying according to Ted Berrigan,

Whom I didn’t know very well, but enjoyed seeing now and then.

John Godfrey and I would go into New York, wander around

And appropriate anything we could---a heady time for

Poetry, not just in New York but everywhere, when people

Argued about it and it mattered.  There are no secrets anymore,

And everyone likes everything, which is even worse, but back then

Secrets were there for the taking, if you could crack their codes.

What made them so important?  Call this poem Exhibit A

And forget “back then”:  what makes it important is the elation

Of being lost on the way to nowhere, walking with John or Diane or

Anyone through the big city like eternal out-of-towners, dazed

By its promise and hell-bent to crack its secrets, like a coupla yeggs.


John Koethe has published nine books of poetry, which have received the Lenore Marshall and Kingsley Tufts Awards.  He is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at UWM and was Milwaukee's first Poet Laureate.  He will inaugurate Woodland Pattern's Milwaukee Poets Laureate Reading Series by reading there on February 15 at 7pm with the New York poet John Godfrey.



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