Daily Archives: June 3, 2013

James Whitcomb Riley: An Ode to Boy

Recntly I visited James Whitcomb Riley’s grave in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis.  James often wrote with a charming Hoosier style and was called “the child’s poet.”  If Mark Twain captured the spirit of childhood adventure during that era, then James Whitcomb Riley certainly claimed the prize for the poetic side of childhood.  As a Hoosier myself, and after having visited Baltimore harbor just a week ago – I offer this little bit in honor of Mr. Riley.


An Ode to Boy

Thar wuz, ya see, a bit part o’ me,
who wuz likin’ dat sav’ry sea.
Dem big ol’ boats tied to dem docks,
how gently back n’ forth dey rocks….

Da smell of ‘er wuz just a might off –
kindy like dat of a fish gut trough –
but it a’ soon get back to norm’l smellun.
least til dem sea-boys gets back from whalin’…

Dem cuttin’ dat blubba and carvin’ dem bones,
Da seag’lls a flyin and divin fo Davy Jones…
Da cussin and da spittun
and da talk of nightly women…
Dem boys wuz needin affec-shun…. fo sho….

So me walked on past
til me heard “Avast!”
“A fiver fo ten”
“Beat dat if cha ken”

And he show’d a bag o’ crawly crabs
dat me mind’s eye shorely grabs
but me pockets as bare as bare cood be.
Me stumuk’s a bitin’ wit stips and stabs
and dem crabby’s a lookin’ like me could hab
a mighty fine suppah fo-ME!

“Avast, my ass…..”
me sez to him…
“Me pockets are bare
and me gots no wares,
to buy dem der crabs to-nite.”

“But me’d mend yor sails, sir,
if you could avail sir,
one or two for momma’s delight.”
“be off wich ya boy,
me won’t be coy,
it’s five fo ten or nun…..”

“Avast” is right,
sez me stumuk’s plight,
fo it’s momma’s 3-day ol’ meat-pie a-gin, to-Nite!

-by John Allen Richter


Then God smiled and it was morning.
Matchless and supreme
Heaven’s glory seemed adorning
Earth with its esteem:
Every heart but mine seemed gifted
With the voice of prayer, and lifted
Where my Leonainie drifted
From me like a dream


– James Whitcomb Riley, excerpt from “Leonainie”

(Riley wrote this poem, “Leonanie”, but falsely sold it as a long lost poem from Edgar Allan Poe.  He did this early in his career when he was having trouble finding paying publishers, and his reason was to prove that he could write as well as other famous poets.  But it was quickly discovered and sparked a major scandal in the literary world of the day.)  I mention this because my recent trip to Baltimore also included a visit to Edgar Allen Poe’s grave. NOTE: The last photo I took from Riley’s monument was a view of the Indianapolis skyline.  There is a small boy in the photo sitting on another gravestone.  I do not know where he came from or how he got into this photo…  odd, indeed….





Of course this is all copyrighted by me friends, as is everything offered on this blog.  Sorry for that, and I hate that it needs to be said.  And the sad truth is – and the horrendous truth of who we all are as a people – is that it needs to be said.

  – John Allen Richter

© 2013 John Richter