Thanks to Afred Noyes, author of “The Highwayman,” (1915) and to my father, Irving Fink, who learned it by heart and enjoyed reciting all 102 lines till the end of his life.
And he cooked with a smiling twinkle,/His paring knife a-twinkle,/ His graters and ladles a-twinkle, as he prepped an amazing potage.
We lived in a house of six bedrooms, after our college years
Employed but with quite meager salaries: an amiable group of peers
And most of us came from Harvard, but others we found through ads
And we each took a turn at the cooking—
We each took a turn at the cooking; and the meals really weren’t half-bad
We’d each put ten bucks in the kitty, and that would suffice for a week
And some would cook all vegetarian, while others more happily served meat
Our dinners increased in variety, as newcomers augmented our rolls
Thus Linda recruited Elmo
Elmo enlisted Eduardo
Eduardo, who offered bruschetta, with freshly made pesto in bowls
Sometimes a bit of romance would change the dynamic of the house
As Patty brought in Marco, who would one day become her spouse
He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, as though he stepped right from a mirage
And he cooked with a smiling twinkle,
His paring knife a-twinkle,
His graters and ladles a-twinkle, as he prepped an amazing potage.
Now Tom was another new fella: Plain-spoken and quite down-to-earth
Chugging beers and stressing over law books, he slowly expanded his girth
Tom’s ears were most attentive to the resonant call: “a table!”
He sprang with his spoon to the table
As the rest of us sidled to the table
Saw the gourmet potage at the table. Then he dug right in like a slob.
Perhaps in a different context, the slurping of soup might be prized
Reared in high-caste Costa Rica, such sounds Marco truly despised
Tom’s volume reached a crescendo as, onto the soup he did glom
Smooth Marco began to unravel
His twinkle was now more like gravel
He grabbed a big spoon at the table– and slurped even louder than Tom!
In the archives of peeves that are pettish, let’s remember this dinnertime showdown
When Marco perceived his fine delicacy being treated like swill at some hoedown
And Tom was perennially hungry, not looking to cause a melee
If you watch our old house in the moonlight
In the ancient flickers of moonlight
You’ll hear Tom and Marco by moonlight still dueling in their peerless way.
Dale Borman Fink retired in 2020 from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA, where he taught courses related to research methods, early childhood education, special education, and children’s literature. Prior to that he was involved in childcare, after-school care, and support for the families of children with disabilities. Among his books are Making a Place for Kids with Disabilities (2000) Control the Climate, Not the Children: Discipline in School Age Care (1995), and a children’s book, Mr. Silver and Mrs. Gold (1980). In 2018, he edited a volume of his father's recollections, called SHOPKEEPER'S SON.