the code of the wooster, ohios

on the streets of wooster, the cars all drive no faster than thirty-two miles

per hour, and the lawns are mowed each Saturday, and the trees



              decorum  are  properly observed  and duly  respected        

                        the citizenry  to  ensure   that  tradition and

                           sentinels    keeping   watch upon

                                           as       great








and  the  pedestrians walk in





pre fer ab ly| in four four time| if you please



and on sundays the good citizens all go the church of their choice,

be it methodist or baptist, where they are all as one

for God created all men equal

                                                (though the president of the tool-and-die

                                                 company and the chairman of the country club’s

                                                 membership committee have pews that they prefer,

                                                 so we strive to be respectful of their feelings.)


and it is obvious that everyone here prefers it so

            there are grievance forms at city hall, after all, which have remain untouched

                for decades.


20 thoughts on “the code of the wooster, ohios

  1. Delightful … reminds me of Lake Wobegon where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average … (I lived in MN for 24 years)!!!

  2. Ha! I’ve never seen concrete poetry on this page… Never expected to either.

    There is a cummings-like feel to this piece, without overdoing the parenthesis, and a hodge-podge type feel to the end product, but make no mistake that the voice is pure Kortas. I love the witty asides and the home-town feel of typical insular lifestyles.
    Thank you for playing along.

    1. Trust me, this is first and last with the concrete poetry thing–I had teachers who were big fans of some truly awful 60’s and 70’s concrete poetry. It’s a wonder I can even look at one, let alone write one.

  3. I am certain few even read the small print. I love this sort of precision in music boxes, but have never wanted to live in one of them. A very fun poem, visually and emotionally!

  4. As a writer, I’ve had just a few occasions where text and mood demanded the concrete form. This poem seems as if it called out for it as well. And is this place real? It sounds like a cinematic entity. But then, I’ve always lived in the Wild Wild West… California and Arizona, where rules seem different and communities less connected. Perhaps I will move to Wooster. 🙂

    1. There is a Wooster, Ohio–I’ve never been there, but I understand it’s one of those pretty Midwest small-college towns. I chose it for my half-playful tip of the cap to P.G. Wodehouse, who I like much more than I like concrete poetry.

  5. when they (?) give LSD to spiders they spin their webs all kinds of screwy…poets don’t often have that excuse…as for the communities of Sapiens, they don’t have excuse for their exactitude except for the leak in their soul

    1. I’m guessing you’re on board with the statement “If the sphincter is too tight for any leakage, the soul may have the odd loose gasket.”

      Always appreciate you weighing in, old friend.

  6. And newcomers are viewed with suspicion because they don’t know the rules, so they don’t follow them. Been there, done that. Know exactly what you’re saying.
    A super write.

  7. That’s RIGHT! The previous commenter who said it was kind of like Garrison Keeler with his “Lake Wobegon”! I got a real kick out of this, W.K., and may I also say that it also reminded me, kind of, of the stuff that Jean Shepherd used to say on his show on WOR radio!

    I liked it a LOT!

    Humorous and tongue-in-cheek!


  8. If you don’t mind me saying, it also reminded me of a short poem that I read out loud in front of the class in a class called “Oral Interpretation of Literature” back in early 1984 at State University of New York at New Paltz. It was written by John Updike. I wish that I could think of the name of it.


    1. Updike went to the well pretty often with the ex-basketball player thing–he wrote either four or five novels about an ex-baller named Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. The first one was brilliant, the second one was pretty good, but he didn’t know when to quit.

  9. Yeah, W.k. He wrote the poem “Ex Basketball Player” in the early 50s, then he wrote “Rabbit Run” in 1959 and it was published in 1960. I just happened to be in King’s Department Store (later it became an Ames) in New Paltz in the summer of 1981, and I saw the paperback, and I thought I’d give it a try. I wasn’t much of a reader back then, and I struggled through it. It was very sophisticated writing for my reading aptitude at the time.

    I enjoyed the first 1/4 of it, particularly at the beginning when he threw his cigarette pack in the garbage and played that game of basketball with the kids. Great writing! And when Updike describes Rabbit’s recollection of when he was a high school basketball hero, with the sweat going into his eyes as he sunk a basket and how light he felt and all that. And he when he drove all over the place; I love that part of the book, because it’s so descriptive of the signs and the roads and the gas stations and the stuff that was playing on the radio. That’s because I used to love to drive, alone and at night. The romance of the road. I was not even 21 yet.

    But by the time Rabbit got back to his hometown area, I started to have trouble with the book. I didn’t understand all that with the priest (or was it a minister?) and all. I was very unsophisticated back then, as well as very naive. So I put down the book.

    I tried it many other times. I FINALLY finished the book almost TWENTY YEARS LATER! And that was only because I skipped the parts that I didn’t understand.

    I guess John Updike is not my favorite writer, overall; he’s VERY sophisticated and urbane. But he’s a favorite of millions of readers. He’s just too sophisticated for me. I feel kind of dumb when I’m trying to read his books. I do, however, enjoy his short stories and poems a lot. He does tend to get a little bit wordy in his novels, though. Do you agree?

    By the way, I took your advice, W.K., and took out that novel called “The Moon Is Down”, by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck is my favorite author, overall, but I’m having trouble getting into this particular book. As I mentioned to you before, I really enjoyed “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Cannery Row”, “Sweet Thursday” (which you told me you didn’t particularly like), “Of Mice and Men”, “Tortilla Flat” and “The Wayward Bus” (which I feel is a HIGHLY under-rated book).


  10. A little fact: Garrison Keillor use to own a bookstore under a coffeeshop in my neighborhood. He only just recently sold it. He’d saunter into the coffee shop buy a friggin day old muffin then shuffle his way out. I will not relate your work to Mr. Keillor for simple fact that I cannot stand his lilting voice and melting face, but I get the pastiche in tone and in form, and am thrilled with the meeting of “Americana” and concrete poetry. What a strange, compelling conmbonation!

    well done and viva la

  11. Nice. I know some people from Wooster. A couple are right down your poem. Mary, on the other hand, is great (and probably hasn’t been to church in 20 years).

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