Any readers who enjoy the light-hearted poetry of the Reverend(?) Charles Dickens, aka Lewis Carroll, may find the meter (rhyming pattern) of the following poem somewhat reminiscent, as well as hints of the theme. To a large extent now, it's lost in history that most of the poems included in the Alice in Wonderland books were actually written as parodies of other, more serious poets' work. But the root, or origin, of one of the naughty old bugger's most popular poems has been debated – more or less hotly, depending of course upon whether the debaters actually cared whether anyone else agreed with them, or merely enjoyed a good argument. Anyway, the two most popular schools of thought are: 1) that it was taken from a fairly obscure poem written in German, or 2) that it was pretty much original – well, at least about as much as any item of this genre ever is.

Whatever... in any case, I've always liked 'Jabberwocky' (does sound kinda Germanic, doesn't it?). And interestingly enough, several of the nonsense (or pidgin German?) words in 'Jabberwocky' have by now made it into occasional, if not common English usage. Anyway, a long time ago – maybe 15 years? – I knocked off a parody about a hill in Point Mugu State Park, pretty much matching the original(?) stanza for stanza, syllable for syllable. With changes in PCs, operating systems and apps, that poem got lost somehow, somewhere along the way along with a few others I still miss. Over the last few years, I've tried a few times to recapture it, but without an acceptable measure of success. Finally, I decided to write this one instead. Of course, as seems to be the case with most poetry I rewrite, it got a good(?) bit longer. This time I've kept the basic 4-4-4-3 iamb pattern of Chuck's poem, but I've doubled up his lines, so that each quatrain becomes a couplet, while adding 'subrhymes' on the first half of each new line. The original had an A-B-C-B rhyming scheme, while mine now has a sort of aaB-ccB pattern. However, if you never even noticed that most lines of 'Tiger, tiger, burning bright' have exactly the same meter as 'Mary had a little lamb', you probably don't much care about any of this. Also, if you're somehow offended or appalled that I might have dared to equate dolphins with slithy toves, or coreopsis with mimsy borogoves, all I can say is: Get frabjous!

Is Cardiac Hill a real place? Yes, near the intersection of Wood and Sycamore Canyons. Is my depiction of it accurate? Exactly how autobiographical is this piece? Gosh... I'm sure I've already told you way more than you ever wanted to know.


Huge breakers crashed as sunlight flashed on dolphins splashing down below.
He'd made good time on that first climb, where strange gold flowers grow.
The fire road curved; the biker swerved, and thought about what lay ahead.
He chose his line, as down his spine raced apprehensive dread.

With will of stone, he pedaled on; he climbed until he reached his goal –
A hill named Cardiac, a hard-rock, rugged, nasty knoll.
He stopped atop the rutted drop – eroded bluff below blue sky,
A firebreak steep, a canyon deep, just daring him to try...

"Be wary, sir;" it seemed to purr, "my claws and teeth are very sharp.
If you're not careful, you may wear new wings and play a harp."
He knew the score; five times before he'd tried to ride this wretched slope
Five times in all; four times a fall had ended his vain hope.

But once he'd made it; he'd displayed his skill by only dabbing twice.
Another rider might decide 'Who cares? That ride was nice!'
Still this foul crag, like some vile nag, stayed on his mind and drew him back.
This hill was mean – but could he 'clean' its rocky rutted track?

Low limbs might snatch; deep ruts might catch him as he fought to keep control.
If he should lose, this hill could bruise; he gulped, then... let it roll.
He left the crown and started down, both speed and tension getting high;
He felt afraid, but coolly made corrections on the fly.

Left – right – left – right... his knobbies' bite on any turn might slip or fail.
He weaved and bobbed as his heart throbbed, and thrashed on down the trail.
Then get it straight... now shift his weight... to float across a gaping pit.
Now braking – HARD! – let off... En garde! Was that a rock he hit?

It wasn't neat, but still his feet stayed clipped in, him still on his wheels.
And then deep sand, like liquid land (you know how strange that feels)...
But (as you know) those sand pits slow, and it felt good to shed some speed.
Slowed just enough, he hit the roughest part. Might he succeed?

A narrow ridge was like a bridge across deep, angled crumbling ruts.
He fought his fear and tried to steer; but skittered off... "YOU PUTZ!"
He yelled aloud; he wasn't proud, but then again he hadn't crashed.
A body shift, a subtle lift of bars; a small smile flashed.

A hop... a slide... the other side (the left) was where the best line lay.
Here on the right, he thought in fright, was where he'd have to stay.
Without a dab, that slick rock slab would be too treacherous to cross.
A stiff limb grabbed; he jerked and crabbed, his grip ripped off some moss.

No rest, no lull, no time to mull, no time to scan ahead to pick
A better line; he arched his spine, his legs absorbed the kick
As fist-sized rocks dished out hard knocks, but he was nearly done.
Still... one last bend was not his friend, and frankly not much fun.

The hill's last trick – off-camber, slick... He'd gone down hard and hurting there,
On his last ride; this time he tried to loosen up, to dare
To sweep out wide, just let it slide, wa-a-a-ay out... to where the ground got firm.
He caught a groove, and made his move; he squared off at the berm.

The grade decreased as he released his death grip on his handlebar.
Relaxing now, he mumbled "WOW!" He'd won his private war.
He'd done his best; he'd passed the test... He laughed; he hadn't earned a dime –
No ribboned brooch, no victor's smooch. He turned around... to climb.

POW Index

Last updated Oct 30 2006