Poems of the Week

Opera: A Ballade

by Barbara Loots

After watching 33 free streamed operas from the Met during quarantine

Sometimes the heroine is just a girl,
an innocent set up to be betrayed.
Whether she loves a hero or a churl,
she’ll face a three- or four-hour escapade
in which her feelings and her fate are swayed
by charm, by force, deception, or disguise
she’s helpless to resist or to evade.
And then she dies.

Sometimes around the heroine unfurl
fate’s sinister entrapments. Undismayed,
she feels the storm of accusation swirl
and knows the price of honor must be paid.
Beset by Powers That Must Be Obeyed,
she suffers while the chorus vilifies.
Her hopes of justice and redemption fade.
And then she dies.

Sometimes the heroine, a perfect pearl,
whether a princess or a village maid,
regardless of her protest or demurral,
becomes the object of an evil trade,
a bloody game, a sinister charade,
with hidden motives and transparent lies,
with clash of insult and with flashing blade.
And then she dies.

Through every lamentation and tirade,
each heroine embraces her demise
despite how fervently she may have prayed.
And then…

Rat Kings

by Julia Griffin

“The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned of ‘unusual or aggressive’ behavior
in American rats as a consequence of more than two months of human lockdown for city-dwelling
rodents who now find themselves unable to dine out on restaurant waste, street garbage and other
food sources. …

Elevated levels of rat aggression [have] been observed in New York, where there are increased reports
of cannibalism and infanticide, and New Orleans, where unusual rat behavior was caught on CCTV.”
The Guardian

How scary is the urban beast
Obsessively compelled to feast
On burgers, fries, and Chick-Fil-A
Who, if those treats are swept away,
So quickly lets its manners slide
To cannibal infanticide!
There’s something in this contact drought
That brings the worst in mammals out;
Aggressively they spread disease
And hang up effigies from trees;
They turn psychotic, eat their brood,
And spit at workers selling food.

Keeping Lungs Strong

by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Pandemic walks have fast become
each day’s aerobic task—
not by distance or by speed,
just breathing through my mask.

It’s Just a Bear, Mom and Dad

by Stephen Pisani

“Boy, 12, Remains Totally Calm Despite The Massive Bear Creeping Up Behind Him”

A bear’s behind me, but I’m not afraid.
I keep my cool, retrace my steps to camp.
My parents yell, “Return at once to shade!”
I walk unhurried. I won’t risk a cramp.
“Return! Return!” My parents yell it loud.
The bear seems nice. I’m thinking, What the heck?
I dawdle, going slow as I’m allowed.
“He’s getting close!” I turn around to check.


by J.P. Celia

“World’s most endangered primate population
triples after 17 years of careful conservation.”
Good News Network

The gibbon is my favorite beast.
My favorite monkey, to be sure.
It’s not a monkey, but an ape.
An ape’s a monkey, but mature.

The gibbon doesn’t have a tail.
I guess somebody sawed it off.
It doesn’t have a family name,
Like Hindenburg or Romanov.

It swings, or rather, “brachiates.”
It’s lost its wallet and its keys.
It’s also lost its underwear.
It speaks in fluent gibbonese.

Bowing Out

by Ruth S. Baker

“’Milli Violini’: I was a fake violinist in a world-class miming orchestra’”
The Guardian

I’ve longed to play the violin
Since I was just a tiddler.
What matter if I’ve ears of tin?
I’m still a world-class fiddler.

Spitting Image

by Julia Griffin

“‘Llamas are the real unicorns’: why they could be our secret weapon against coronavirus …
Llama antibodies have been a fixture in the fight against disease for years, with researchers
investigating their potency against HIV and other viruses.”

The Guardian

The Llama and the Unicorn
Disputed which was real.
The Llama said: “That glitzy horn
Establishes the deal:
I am the one who grows the wool
While you do tail-coiffures;
You’re rainbowish and fanciful;
I’m making virus cures.”

The Unicorn demurely rolled
Mascara-laden eyes,
And murmured: “Sheepy, must you scold?
You’re welcome to the prize
Of being laden, shorn, and tame,
And fixing HIV;
Just don’t, I beg you, try to claim
That you’re a real-er me.”

Snow White and Friends

by David Hedges

“Dopey annoys Grumpy and Doc on a consistent basis.”

Snow White Kayleigh

First thing she did was give the press
Her word that “I will never lie.”
Four minutes later, more or less,
She did, and didn’t bat an eye.

Bashful Rudy

Did Giuliani disappear
Or simply quench his quest for fame?
If he got tossed out on his ear,
Assume that Dopey Don’s to blame.

Grumpy Mike

The Brothers Grimm had Pence in mind
When dreaming Grumpy up. His heart
is cold, his ears are deaf, he’s blind
And can’t stand women, for a start.

Happy Betsy

Hard starboard is the course she steers
As first mate on the Ship of Fools.
If Dopey Don gets four more years,
She’ll do away with public schools.

Doc Anthony

His street cred’s dubious, at best,
Since only Dopey Don knows where
And when and why and what to test,
And how to beat Obamacare.

Sneezy Mitch

He runs his Punch and Judy show
With buggy whip and monkey wrench.
He claims his Russian quid pro quo
Is quite all right, despite the stench.

Evil Queen Ivanka

She spends her time invoking spells
Intended to conceal her wealth.
Her offshore fortune swells and swells;
Her cluelessness betrays her stealth.

Crown Prince Jared

He knows enough to know he knows
Enough to know he’s always right,
And so, like Monty Python, goes
Clip clopping off, an arrant knight.

Dopey Don

He pulls a Joker from his sleeve
When no one blessed with common sense
Would in a million years believe
That anyone could be so dense.

Sleepy Joe

His numbers show it pays to hunker
Like vintage wine upon a shelf,
Sequestered in a basement bunker
While Dopey Don destroys himself.

Barack, the Magic Mirror

He knows what Dopey Don wants most:
To reign upon a golden throne,
To lay to rest his Daddy’s ghost,
And boost his low testosterone.

The Periodic Poem

by Evan D. Morris

Sir Isaac sought Gold from Pb.
Brother Joseph was sold for Ag.
But thanks to the Virus
and lack of papyrus,
We’d all trade Au for TP.

Mrs. DeVos Explains

by Philip Kitcher

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to throw a lifeline to education sectors she has long championed, directing millions of federal dollars intended primarily for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools. … The Bergin University of Canine Studies said its $472,850 allocation was a ‘godsend.'”
The New York Times

All our schools should receive the support they deserve
To the limit that we can afford.
But a cabinet officer never should swerve
From fulfilling the work of the Lord.

I have never set foot in a government school
(And I don’t intend now to begin!).
I shall always stay true to the Lord’s holy rule
Not to truckle or traffic with sin.

For they teach that God’s creatures have changed and evolved—
“We’re just apes”—so these sinners believe.
Till such evils are cured I am firmly resolved,
That no money from me they’ll receive.

Universities too are where prodigals dwell,
Lying down with the liberal hogs.
Not a cent shall I spend to pave highways to hell—
Every penny shall go to the dogs.

So give praise to the Lord who our Leader appoints
For the war on the secular state.
I shall serve as the vessel the Party anoints.
All my works may the Three consecrate!


by Barbara Loots

“’He’s a very brilliant guy,’ Trump said on Monday, referring to Pompeo,
‘…I’d rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him
wash dishes because maybe his wife isn’t there.’”
The Kansas City Star

Dishwasher, Darling, that’s what you should be.
The president says so, and I so agree.
Just leave the important decisions to me.

Wives should be barefoot and pregnant and mute.
Where is Melania? Pressing his suit
and sweeping the residence kitchen to boot.

Bible examples like Vashti foretell
if wives disobey, the whole state goes to hell.
(Husbands should frequently beat them as well.)

Equality means you have your part to play,
like scrubbing and cooking and sewing all day.
And waiting on me. It’s the natural way.

A Fine Inspector General, Steve Linick

by Orel Protopopescu
(With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)

He was the very model of a fine inspector general,
investigating fraud and waste, endemic and perennial,
who heard that Mike Pompeo used security to fetch his meals
and dog and son and dry-cleaned clothes, like menials with guns and wheels.

What’s worse, Mike cried “Emergency!” to peddle in the Emirates
and to the Saudis weapons seized by rebels backed by warring states.
Now Yemen’s bombed to bits, which to a lobbyist’s a “trade expense”
and Mike’s old West Point pal has moved from Raytheon to head Defense.

And there’s the matter of the dinners Pompous held for billionaires
to shore up lists of donors with the briefest nod to world affairs.
All this and more Steve Linick would have done his best to scrutinize
if Mike Pompeo hadn’t asked the Prez to cut him down to size.

Like Grimm (at Health) or Fine (Defense) and Atkinson (Intelligence),
Steve Linick was a victim of a fear of searing evidence.
Can Akard keep Steve’s place at State or Linick still be liminal,
or was he doomed as soon as he got wind of something criminal?

Dolls’ Day Out

by Nora Jay

“South Korean football team apologises for using sex dolls to fill stands
After reviewing the case, league officials accepted FC Seoul’s claim that
it did not know the mannequins were sex toys, but said it ‘could have
easily recognised their use using common sense and experience.'” 

—The Guardian

Don’t think it’s all no hips and bouncy chests:
A high-class doll will Share His Interests,
And so we’ve always thought it such a shame
We don’t get taken to a football game.
We come with phrases perfectly designed,
Like “Come, on dribble!” and “The ref is blind!”
“Foul!” “Offside!” “It was in!” “It wasn’t!” “Goal!”—
So when we got the call from FC Seoul,
We shouted, “Here we go!” and packed the stands,
Making big gestures with our bendy hands.
And now it seems we’ve caused an awful fuss:
The team insists they never ordered us;
There was some sort of mix-up with the mail;
They innocently finalized the sale
Without a clue what we’re intended for.
Oh yes. Believe us, boys: we know the score.