Scott Keyes (1910-1992)

Selected Poetry and Light Verse of
Scott Keyes (1910-1992)


After he retired, our father, Scott Keyes, turned to writing poetry: serious, as well as light verse. Dad had always wanted to do this, but first had to complete his career as an urban and regional planner. From 1977 till 1991 he sent an annual booklet of poems to his many friends.

In honor of his memory, we are devoting a section in our respective websites to the best of Scott Keyes’s verse. We will be gradually uploading his poetry, starting here with 28 of our favorites from his first collection, The Keyes Garden of Verses, and 12 from A Second Helping. (There are also a links at the bottom to the complete set of each one, though some might be a bit dated.)

Gene and Ralph Keyes

(with encouragement from our other two siblings, Stephen and Nicolette)


Light verse:

1977 The Keyes Garden of Verses
1978 A Second Helping
1979 Chapbook ’79
1981 Time for Scott Again
1982 Your Nickels and Dimes Please, Madam and other poems
1983 Brother, Can You Spare a Chime? and other poems
1986 Tomato, Tomato! and other poems
1987 Polyester Rag and other poems

Serious poetry

1980 Where Does the Fault Lie? and other poems
1984 Look to the Horizon [parts 1 and 2]
1985 Look to the Horizon [parts 1 – 4]
1988 …dust…dust and feet [preliminary version]
1990 Two Poems
1991 …dust…dust and feet (Champaign, IL, and Yellow Springs, OH: David Scott, Publishers, 1991) 50 p.

1994 Dê uma olhada no Horizonte (Portuguese version, with English, of Look to the Horizon [parts 1 – 4])
translated by Luiz Paulo Gujanabara (Rio de Janeiro: Grifo, 1994) 26 p.

Selected from The Keyes Garden of Verses (1977)

Big Busyness

Whenever I think that
I might like to snooze
I’m stopped in my tracks by
That list of to-do’s
Two Loves

I love to read till
Late at night.
I love to watch the
But when I try them
Both I find
I spend the whole day
The Gardener

I never like to
Start from seeds
Because I’m
I find that I can
Never thin
Them out when they
Have started.
Pack Rat


I never like to
Throw away things
Because I’ve learned
To my sorrow
That anything I
Dispose of to-day
I’m certain to want

Pack Rat


What I’ll toss when
I run out of space
I’m not quite sure
That I see
But if nothing else
Is disposable
I guess it will have
To be me.

Coming of Age

A savage may
Achieve manhood
By putting a ring
Through his nose.
But the intellectual
Does it
By grinding out
Scholarly prose.
Give Me A Hint


I always know what
I’d like to get
Except when it comes
But darn it — right at
The crucial time
I just can’t seem to

Give Me A Hint


Whenever you ask what
I’d like for Christmas
Why do I always find myself
List – less ?

Room Mate

My daughter has
Moved in with
Someone to
But since he’s
No in-law
I feel rather
Hard To Please

Two things really
Have me beat.
One is cold,
The other, heat.
Kitchen Drudge

A man who retires
Soon understands
What his wife always meant by
Dishpan hands.
Double Whammy

I love my neighbor’s
Well groomed lawn
But not his
Power mower.
It’s nice he has
A stereo
But I wish he’d play it
Golden Years

It’s so wonderful when
You’re in my arms
And the tip of your cigarette’s
And gently you put your
Lips on mine
And between us the smoke is
Flowing.Soon we’ll be on the
Other side, and
Just think — there we’ll
Be able
To light up again in the
Same old way
And forget what it says on
The label.

Fellow Traveller

I shudder whenever
I open the door
And see you scuttle
Across the floor.Yet really I think that
I should ask why
Since you’ve been around
Much longer than I.

You’ve seen species come
And you’ve seen them go
And I’m sure in that stubby
Black body you know

That you will reflect
On the human condition
Long after we’ve blown
Ourselves to perdition.

On a Certain bomber

I never saw
A purple cow
I never hope to
See one.
But I’ll tell you
This much anyhow —
Rather that than
B – 1.
Now They Tell Me

New, bigger, better —
Have I been had ?
Was last year’s product
All that bad ?
Big Sale

It’s a curious thing
I can’t quite comprehend
When they tell me I’ll save more
The more that I spend.
Born Loser

In guessing which
Check-out line
Will move
Tells me I’m
Not a good
Strange Interlude

Peculiar things happen
to water consumption
Between “Now this message …”
And program resumption.
Laxative Commercial

I never would have
Suspected it —
So many people
So full of shit.

When I see those
Help Wanted ads that say
“Cook — No Experience Needed”
I remember the
Restaurant meals I’ve tried
To eat and haven’t succeeded.

I used to like the
Simple words, but
Now-a-days, my gracious
I’ve had to shift to
Sprightly, animated or

I wish they hadn’t
Stolen away
That word which means
You’re happy — gay.
More Robbery

And another word they’ve
Stolen away —
Just look what “Explicit…”
Means to-day.

I don’t have
Much time
For poems that
Don’t rhyme.

Whenever they tell you
The verse is free
Prepare yourself for some
Triple Threat

Parkinson’s Law and the
Peter Principle
Appear to make Murphy’s Law
Almost invincible.
Fifty / Fifty

I hope the day is not far off
When women have an equal say
In running the affairs of state
It surely will be best that way.We need the type of thought they bring —
Sagacity and wit and charm.
But should they pass the half-way mark
My hope could soon become alarm!

Go to unabridged version, The Keyes Garden of Verses

Selected from A Second Helping (1978)


| M | a | c | h | i | n | e
| R | e | a | d  | a | b | l | e|
| I |   | w | o | n | d | e | r |   | i | f |   | m | y |
| P | o | e | m | s |   | w | o | u | l | d |  | b | e |
| C | u | t | e | r |
| I f |   | t | h | e | y |   | w | e | r | e |
| R | e | a | d | a | b | l | e |   | b | y |   | a |
| C | o | m | p | u | t | e | r | . |


I know my desk is
A mess.
It’s been so since way
Back when.

I ought to clean it
I guess
But how will I find
Things again?



No matter how fair
Or foul the weather
My paper clips always
Hang together.


Gresham’s Law

We live in a
Peculiar age
When using words is
All the rage.

And it really is
A thing to see
When they replace


Please Fence Me In

Somehow I just can’t
Space and time that
Have no end.



If saving the world
Were not so hard
I think I’d have time
To mow the yard.


Rabbit Food

Knowing that rabbits
Have their needs
I offer them my
Crop of weeds.

But exercising
Rabbit power
They dine instead on


The Great Indoors

My neighbors? Yes,
I believe
They are there
Though I’m never
Sure with their
Central air.



I think that I would
Get on the ball
And worry, if I could
Remember them all.


Watch Your Step

I know that walking is
Better by far
But I only feel safe at
The wheel of a car.



Cats that
Scratch couches
Will hear from
Us grouches.


Income Tax

I’ll have to take
A month off
I guess
To do that research
For the

Go to unabridged version, A Second Helping

Page design by GK; keyboarding by GK & Mary Jo Graça.

Go back to Gene Keyes website

Go back to Ralph Keyes website