It seems that ALFA, betting
she would always be the first in line
said BRAVO to herself and

CHARLIE her sweet valentine
took her to the DELTA where
a conchy band called ECHO

played a sexy FOXTROT
and the vino was con secco.

Meanwhile at the GOLF course
near a big luxurious HOTEL
in INDIA JULIET had found a KILO of

old LIMA beans that had begun to smell
and she asked MIKE for counsel
but he really didn’t care

he was too worried that NOVEMBER
was approaching with its frigid air

and what would OSCAR his poor
PAPA do stuck up there in QUEBEC
the poor old ROMEO

without a credit card or cheque
pining for the warm SIERRA
where once he danced the TANGO

with some woman that he met who
wore a UNIFORM the color of a mango.

So no one was the VICTOR in the end
they all drank too much WHISKEY
and took off for Honolulu…

besides who really needs
an X-RAY just to tell
a YANKEE from a ZULU?
copyright Cynthia Jobin 2015
NOTE: The background sounds you may hear midway in the audio are those made by my old cat, Beau, who decided to come sit by me and have a sneezing fit as I was recording this.

71 responses »

    • I’m thinking of comments elsewhere in which we bemoaned the endless telephone time trying to communicate with IT helpers whose native tongue is not English….sometimes spelling helps….A as in Alfa, B as in Bravo, C as in Charlie…..etc. Thanks, Derrick.

  1. Funny, I was hoping for an abecedarian poem this week. And it’s better than an alphabet frieze because the reader must imagine the imaginings.

    Of course those of us uninitiated in the language of radio can still appreciate the military precision of the system–after all, if someone is going to launch a nuclear weapon on some inconspicuous straw hut in the middle of some desert, one ought to get the instructions right. And I think that mango colored uniforms are just right for a small Armageddon. Conflicts of a more serious nature should be fought with soldiers dressed in oxblood garments–functional, though tastily tailored.

    • Funny you should raise the specter of abecedarianism. I believe it’s much easier in a poem than in a frieze…..all those long hours back in the middle ages when I trained as a calligrapher, abecedarianism acquired the status of a religious practice: copying, then spontaneous penning of majescules and miniscules, A to Z, in roman, italic, celtic uncial, gothic fraktur, English copperplate, etc..etc.
      Then there were the commercial ventures, the most trying of which were new parents who wanted an alphabet frieze painted on the wall of a nursery, pink friezes for girls, and blue for boys, with themes to match the decor, the latest Disney fad, or Dr. Seuss. Balancing high on a ladder to paint those gave me just a soupçon of sympathy for poor old Michelangelo. At least I never had to paint on a ceiling!

      As to the design of uniforms for Armageddon, I am in total agreement with you. The colors should increase in intensity depending on the degree of collateral damage expected.

      • As an optimist I always hope for something serious and I find dark colors enlivening–rufous shades won’t do, I need something full on red, if red be the color.

        Again you have me at a disadvantage as I know nothing of poetry or of the demands put upon cimmerian calligraphers by half-mad parents with shifty, carmine eyes (popular in the 90s). Still, I like flashy things, and a room decorated with letters and cute animals–Z is for zebra, for example–or with ice hockey terminology–Z is for Zamboni, as a for instance–appeals to my lifelong fantasy of educating the masses. On the other hand, I dislike hearing of people actually doing any sort of work. Michelangelo probably had his reasons for sculpturing bits of rock, painting murals on the walls of abandoned subway lines, or doing any thing I might deem worthy of a workaholic. In fact I think he was addicted to after-eight mints, which can get quite expensive over time.

        • I agree about color intensity. Weak pastel colors are abhorrent,…and it’s dangerous for a lady of my age because everyone wants to put me in loathsome pale blue, lavender and pink pastels with tiny little flower prints all over them! My favorite color is a certain hue of true blue, but full red is good too. When I play the came of CLUE, I always choose the game piece for Miss Scarlet.

          “Z is for zamboni”… I used to live across from an ice-hockey rink, and during the mornings when it was abandoned, the zamboni guy was always at work. I think sitting up high, as he did, gave him a certain superior air, as it would to someone riding on an elephant, or a beauty pageant float. I thought to ask him, once or twice, between sonnet quatrains, if I could try driving it, but I never did. He probably would have said no, anyway.

          Those were the days…. of after-eight mints and all…..I especially liked the little brown shiny paper envelopes those mints came in.

          • I’m always Colonel Mustard with the lead pipe in the sauna, between sonnet quatrains, naturally.

            But beware of the Zamboni guy. Probably a sociopath.

            And it’s the fashionista again in me which speaks–dump the ghost pale colors. Go brash and bold. Of course you could attract the likes of the Zamboni guy dressed in such a farouche manner, but it’s a chance you’ll have to take. Besides you are armed with calligraphy pens–and they are quite pointy, I think.

            • Sharp as stilleti, some of the steel pens are, and there’s no telling what damage the chisel-edged ones could do, too, especially if coated with poisonous cuttlefish ink. With my luck, though I would be caught on a day armed only with a bendy goose quill.

              I always liked Colonel Mustard, as well as the lead pipe, but my CLUE, while it had a conservatory, had no sauna. As I have often suspected, you are more au courant than I.

  2. I love this! It reminded me of making marine radio calls ‘whiskey papa (stream of numbers)’ and such like. I’ve found the names come in handy as well when spelling my name or reading a string of letters and numbers.

  3. You are a veritable fountain of knowledgeable creativity – I didn’t know that there was an accepted international radiotelephony spelling convention. It astonishes me that the words are all English – or is there one for each language? Anyway I say Bravo because this one gave me a good chuckle even though I, like everyone else, hate those international calls to Bangalore to wade through some computer of other similar problem. Next time I may cheer myself up with a re-read of this piece. Bangalore, by the way, is quite a city peppered with grumpy-faced statues of Empress Victoria she might be akin to a sneezing cat!

    • That’s a good question, Jane…there must be more than an English spelling convention. And it sounds like you’ve been to Bangalore! Is that where most of those frustrating phone calls connect to? The idea of the grumpy-faced Victorias makes me giggle….I think I’ll stick with my sneezing cat! Thank you for such a nice comment.

      • Yes, I’ve been there as my daughter did a surgery rotation in Bangalore> We visited as our last stop in India. I have a photograph of the two of us under a statue of Victoria trying to mimic her pout. ‘The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga has the hero end up in Bangalore ferrying telephone operators to and from work.

        • You get to visit all kinds of amazing places as a consequence of your daughter’s work, and that is so nice! I’m going to look into “The White Tiger”….it sounds very interesting!

  4. This is brilliant, Cynthia. I sometimes forget a key phonetic at a critical moment and haven’t had a method for recalling them to memory. Perhaps I could assign this poem to memory and use it as an advanced mnemonic device!

    • Actually, this started out as an exercise in trying to remember that international alphabet, and since there seemed no rational linkage between the words, I thought a ridiculous story might be a possible mnemonic. Even though I wrote it, I had to read it a few times before it worked….I don’t know how long i”ll remember it, but I hope it’s there when I need it! Thanks, Brad

  5. You do enjoy making us laugh Cynthia!! I have to say, this makes me feel like I’m reading one of those complex dreams you can have and then wake wondering about it’s meaning. They sound like a complicated bunch! πŸ˜€

    I did just about notice some background noises, but I would never have guessed it was your cat, I didn’t hear any sneezes though! That’s problem with recording, there will always be something that comes along you would rather not. This one about interference always makes me laugh!

    • That international alphabet dictated the parameters, Suzy, which did reach into the sublime as well as the ridiculous.

      Thank you for the link! It’s wonderful, and so very apt, especially for us who try to make recordings of our poems! More than once, I’ve had to start over again because of a dog lapping water, barking to protect me from thel United Parcel Service truck, a cat sneezing, or some neighbor deciding to use his chainsaw…. πŸ™‚

  6. That is pure genius Cynthia! Loved it. Who more can relate than me when I have to spell my name of Indian origin( not common here in Australia). I always start with S for Sam, H for Harry……

    • Hello Shubha— So nice of you to come by and read….I have the kind of name, too, that gives problems with people who have no “th” sound in their language as we have it in English….which turns out to be some older relatives! Thank you for your comment….I’ve enjoyed many of the things you’ve said on Bruce’s site!

  7. The sneezing fit was entirely appropriate, and kept a good rhythm for the chuckles. My mind was doing its usual zig zags with the Quick Brown Fox and other alphabet devices. I just love the way you said ‘soup’ in the title.

    • It really is a soup, isn’t it Hlilary? Such a soup! I remember the Quick Brown Fox from a high school elective course called “Personal Typing” which I elected because I wanted to be able to zip through that college essay stuff. (My dad said: learn how to type, but don’t tell anybody you know how. He was a feminist unbeknownst to himself, but probably only in my honor!)

      My cat Beau has always, in some ineffable way, contributed to this poetry writing vice, and if he could, I’m sure he would thank you for the recognition.

      • That’s amazing. My father said, don’t learn to type, or that’s what they’ll make you do. Your father’s advice was better, but there was a moment in my first post-university job, where I was told to type up the research I had been doing on a VERY long index – I got more research instead of endless typing, so I was grateful at the time. Now, of course, I wish I had learned. My father was a feminist.

        Reading your poems has made me resolve that, one day, I will find a cat and persuade it to live with me again.

        • I can tell by the way you phrase the “persuading” of a cat that you probably see them as I do…not as if I am their fawning mother or a fanatic cat lady, but that they are my fellow pilgrims through the mysteries of life. They contribute wisdom, humor, love to my home. Animals keep us honest, I think, at least with ourselves. Even hedgehogs! πŸ™‚

  8. Very clever and witty, Cynthia. And next time I’m asked the call sign for a letter in our daily quiz, I’ll be sure to be able to answer it. Maybe.

    Whatever happened to Able Baker Charlie? (Other than opening a restaurant at Melbourne Airport.)

    • They found out that the Baker wasn’t so Able after all.

      It’s a mystery to me just why they chose the words they did for an international convention….and, as usual, I don’t even know who THEY is! Thanks, MoSY.

    • Hi yourself, Frank…I checked the email for your post before I got to the email for your comment here this morning…glad and sorry to hear what ‘s been happening….that cruise sounds wonderful, but the aftermath…yuk! I hope you will soon be up to your old tricks. Thanks for coming by…glad you’re back!

  9. ….hahahahahaha!—you’ve helped us all finally get to the origins of how these words came to describe the letters they stand for! You must have found this on some undiscovered rosetta stone and had it transcribed. I’m sorry I’ve been off the radar lately–I get kind of reclusive betimes, plus we’ve been going through the throes of a federal election in Canada and I’ve been involved in that. We now have a wonderfully dynamic and charming Prime Minister, and the country couldn’t be happier after ten years of ….. well, we’re all very happy. I even wept. I do hope you are well, Cynthia dear. Thank you for the ditty and the fun.

    • Happy to see your comment here, Lance. I totally understand the need to withdraw from all this, though I did hope all was all right with you, and that you were only off to something else you needed or wanted to do. Glad to hear of your pleasure in the election results and hope you are looking forward to the new season….warmest regards… and thank you for coming by πŸ™‚

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