Poems of the Week

Beyond the Pale

by Julia Griffin

Miss India 2019 organizers blasted for fair-skinned finalists.”
—India Today

The earth has nothing to show more fair
Than the belles who would be Miss India,
Mincing along in their Disneywear—
And every darn year pale-skinned-ier!
O who would have thought that the favoured sheen
Of a 50s Barbie- or Cindy-Girl
Would be de rigueur in the year ’19
For Punjabi- and Rawalpindi-girl?
O why must it be that the human peach
Who overcomes every rivalry
Is fleshed in a colour approaching bleach
And ethically-suspect ivo(l)ry?
Say, why can’t her darker sisters preen,
Lips puffy and paint meticulous—
Or collagen-free and size sixteen
(But that would be just ridiculous).

Cleaned Out

by Julia Griffin

“Man says an intruder broke into his house, cleaned it and left.”

Yes, an intruder came and cleaned and left.
I’d really have preferred a normal theft
Or downright smash-and-grab-style daylight robbery
To this embarrassing unpaid odd-jobbery.
The bathroom’s full of toilet-paper roses,
As if we bought the paper for our noses.
We’ve changed the locks now—no more interloping!
(The kitchen window’s open, though. Here’s hoping.)


by Dan Campion

“Amazon is reportedly working on wearables that can read your emotions”

I do not want my feelings read
By Bezos, Google, Cook, or Zuck.
The very thought fills me with dread.
Oops. Now they know. Wish me good luck.

Low Risibility

by Nora Jay

“In June 2017, the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) senior director Stephen Risotto in a letter asked the agency to ‘suspend the implementation’ of the 2014 EPA memo laying out how regulators should hasten TCE cleanups.”—The Guardian

So this is the motto
Of Stephen Risotto,
American Chemical king:
“We don’t have a pre-nup
Enforcing a clean-up,
Which anyway isn’t a thing.
Let’s hear no more ructions
About our obstructions:
The charge (unlike spills) doesn’t stick;
We’ve never obstructed
The things that our muck did;
And if that upsets you, you’re sick.”

Leak of lead and spill of oil,
Gobbets of polluted soil,
Halogenous solvents (yum!),
Hexavalent chromium,
Lashings of formaldehyde,
Scum of ponds where frogs have died
(EPA-approved as clean);
Add trichloroethylene,
Mixed with babe’s discolored tongue,
Damaged heart and failing lung,
All with tasty tumors rife
(And, of course, the Right to Life).
Boil it down and serve it hot
In a big asbestos pot
For a rich Risotto dish,
Fit for CEOs! (You wish.)

Grumpy in Paradise

by Ruth S. Baker

“Grumpy Cat, the internet’s most famous cat, dead at 7”

The door gets opened when I please.
I prowl the whole night long,
Then sleep on warm computer keys.
You think I’m happy? Wrong.

I’ve pricey sofas for my claws
Plus Frank Lloyd Someone’s chairs,
All mine for shredding into straws.
I sit on saints. Who cares?

Oh, here we go. You think, perchance,
Scared mouse for every meal
And snacks of prized umbrella plants
Impress me? Please. Big deal.

I have to eat and mate and doze
Then do it all again.
Dear God! One hardly even knows
To whom one can complain.

Enduriance Test

by Julia Griffin

“Library stink: smell of durian prompts evacuation at University of Canberra”
—The Guardian

In test-time, librarians say,
It’s hard to dislodge a BA;
But what neither flu
Nor boredom will do,
A dishful of durian may.

Ode to Day

by Dan Campion

No requiem for Doris Day,
In film the fairest queen of May,
Can capture her pellucid tone
Or claim her luster for its own.

Warner movies of her era,
Their patter à la Yogi Berra
(Not exactly Sophocles),
Reduced her range to bait and tease;
Like Elvis she was handicapped
But still held audiences rapt
With spirit no one’s caged or mapped
Or bottled, packaged, cloned, or apped.

Now, therefore, let us celebrate
An actor who transcended fate
And singer who from “Que sera”s
Could wring a flinty world’s applause.

Mittens the Malefactor

by Patrick Biggs

“Mittens, the Cat of Wellington, is a Turkish Angora famous for his wanderings around New Zealand’s capital. He is known to visit shops, churches, universities, restaurants, bars, hotels, and people’s homes. His adventures are documented by his thousands of fans on social media. Recently, he was detained by Wellington police after being spotted dangerously crossing the road by the city’s library. He was later released without charge.”
—NZ Herald

New Zealand’s justice system, it disheartens me to say,
Absolves too many criminals, permitting crime to pay.
Though trivial delinquents should of course be spared the joint,
Regrettably a recent matter illustrates my point.

They’d Mittens in their clutches and they let the felon out,
Despite the bleak skulduggery we know that cat’s about.
They merely took his details down: aged nine, of Turkish ilk,
Exhibiting a ginger coat as velvety as silk.

They’d Mittens in their custody and let him out the door.
He only jaywalked? Au contraire, his crimes are manyscore.
He’s plundered every shop in town, he’s broken into homes—
No place is safe from trespass for as long as Mittens roams.

They’d Mittens in detention and unwisely let him go.
You might have seen him at the church but, trust me, it’s for show.
More often he’s frequenting bars and running from the bill.
A mouse I spoke to hinted that his deeds are darker still.

Art for Whose Sake?

by Orel Protopopescu

“As billionaires compete for art in an overheated market, the merely affluent are giving up.”
The New York Times

Are you a middling millionaire?
Alas, you’ll leave no dent
in Christie’s catalog for one
percent of one percent.

Crave a furless, ferrous rabbit?
A Hockney of your own?
Don’t bother calling Sotheby’s.
They won’t pick up the phone.

Poor merely wealthy souls! It hurts
to think you’ve won, then lose
the chance to snuggle up with Koons’s
cute, metallic muse.

Why risk your dollars on a budding
Van Gogh or Miró?
They may be hot at auctions now,
but their returns were slow.

Thickly Crusted

by Julia Griffin

“With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted one and all”
—Tennyson, “Mariana in the Moated Grange”

“Man makes deepest-ever dive in Mariana Trench and discovers … litter”
—The Guardian

Within the Mariana Trench
Minute crustaceans flitter,
And maybe some spelunking tench
Will wave to our transmitter—

We thought. But now we find (a wrench
So wretched and so bitter!)
There’s trash beneath the ocean’s drench
To make a demon titter.

The divers’ teeth are all a-clench:
There’s crud in every critter;
The very corals seem to blench.
Who is the benefiter?

The judge is sleeping on the bench;
The President’s on Twitter,
As Mariana’s Moated Trench
Explodes with loathsome litter.