Don’t Buy Dünderbeck a Hot Dog

Dearest Rachel –

I confess to never having been a fan of love poetry; for one, it takes too much effort to cobble together something that fits meter and rhyme, and for the other, once assembled, it sounds cobbled together, slightly off and unnatural. As much as I enjoy the stories told by Shakespeare’s plays, I agree with the cast of Moonlighting:


People just don’t talk like that, honey, so it always feels forced. It’s the uncanny valley of speech and writing.

Daniel doesn’t help matters by claiming that it’s ‘the [Holy] Spirit’ talking through him whenever he speaks in rhyme, insisting that it can’t be himself talking like that, because he’s supposedly not good at making up rhymes on the spot like that. The thing is, his little rhyming slogans sound just like that – slogans – and I have a hard time thinking the Almighty is into writing jingles these days in order to get His point across.

It’s not that I can’t appreciate the craftsmanship of a well-written poem (you’ll recall I’ve always been partial to limericks – which seems in character with my name and our relationship), and it’s not as if I don’t back up fairly often and rewrite what I’m sending to you to better express what I have to say. It’s just that when something is supposed to sound as if it comes from the heart, it shouldn’t sound like it was created by a staff writer at Hallmark. There’s a time and place for that, sure, but if you want to say something to someone, you ought to use your own words – and they ought to sound like your own words.

I think part of the problem I have with poetry is that, while I don’t do this for a living, I do write a lot these days. Mostly to you, of course, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that I do it. I have some practice in turning a phrase here and there. I’m not a genius at it – although you’d claim that it was my writing that won you back in the day. Let’s just say that when it comes to writing, I’ve seen and know how the sausage is made.

And the thing is, you don’t buy Dünderbeck a hot dog.

You remember old Dünderbeck, don’t you? You were the one who taught me that old camp song – although the versions I’ve found online have been a bit tamer than the chorus as I think you taught me:

Oh Dünderbeck, oh Dünderbeck, how could’ja be so mean
T’ever have invented that sausage link machine?
Now all the neighbor children will never more be seen
’Cause they’ve been ground to sausages in Dünderbeck’s machine

Every source I could find online talked about local animals, like “pussy cats and long-tailed rats,” making up the ingredient list, but that’s all but foreign to me; the version I got from you via, what, your girl scout troop? talked about a more soylent green composition to the old fellow’s secret recipe.

To be sure, it really doesn’t matter, as far as my point goes. Either way, I recognize a sausage when I see it, and I can’t say I necessarily find it appealing.

Perhaps this is why Erin doesn’t like sausages herself, come to think of it. But that’s a whole other subject.

You’re probably wondering why I’m going on about tortured rhymes and sausages in the first place at this juncture, although you probably have noticed that I don’t tend to get straight to the point in most of my letters. Everything needs to start off with a silly little story or reminiscence before I get to the meat of the letter; you’re probably wishing for a little less filler by now.

Okay, okay… I’ll stop with the extended metaphors.

The thing is, Yvonne and I still contact each other through Skype these days, even as she’s busily getting her mother settled in with her sister, not to mention preparing to head to Poland to meet members of her father’s family and go over his legacy. Usually, it’s just a quick text from one or the other of us and a response shortly thereafter; just something to let the other know we’re still remembering each other day by day. Sometimes it’s quick note about what’s going on, other times it’s just a “thinking of you” or “wishing you the best today” type of message. The kind of things we might have shared if we were forced to spend a considerable amount of time apart (thankfully, that was never the case).

This morning, she sent me this in a text bubble:

I had a dream I was looking out at sea,
but on the beach you were there, standing next to me.
We were joking around like newly wedded couples,
then I looked you in your eyes and saw all my dreams come true.
Walking down the beach, the sky is blue above,
then out of nowhere a bird flew by, the bird they call love.
It’s white and as pure as can be,
this bird is a symbol of you and me.
We fly high and hold true to our dreams,
we never hesitate to look back, it’s us in every scene.
Growing old is something I’ll share with you,
being devoted as your man is something I’ll always do.

It’s nice-sounding sentiment, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about it that doesn’t ring true to me. And while I recall my grandmother incredulously describing getting a letter she’d written to her older sister (who had left home to become a schoolteacher – that will be important in a moment) returned to her, complete with various marks on it regarding grammar, spelling and punctuation (she got revenge by not writing her for an extended period, and, when prompted by her sister, sent a letter devoid of punctuation, telling her to put it in where she saw fit, seeing as she knew where it all went anyway. Her sister never corrected another of Grandma’s letters), and don’t want to find myself in her sister’s position, I can’t seem to help myself.

I’ll try to keep the criticism to a minimum for time’s sake, but some things ought to be remarked upon. First of all, there doesn’t seem to be any consistent meter to this thing. I suppose that it should prove to me that she came up with this herself, rather than copying it from some other source, which is nice to think. On the other hand, the phrase ‘as your man’ seems a bit out of place – coming from her, it should either be ‘as your woman’ (which, now that I think about it, has some unfortunately possessive connotations I preferred to eschew, as you well know) or ‘as my man’ – which suggests she’s borrowing it from somewhere else. And between the issues with the meter and the fact that the second couplet doesn’t even rhyme, that doesn’t reflect well on any professionally-written work.

I know I should just be grateful to hear stuff like this from her – it’s especially interesting that she tells about a dream she had right after I tell you about one of my own – but my suspicious nature, combined with having been burned by others in the past, views these sort of messages as less sincere than an ordinary text, or better yet, actual conversation. I wish I could say otherwise, but that’s the way things are. Maybe the next time we talk, I’ll find myself reassured.

Until then, honey, keep an eye out for me, and wish me luck – I’m going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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