Poems of the Week

Dehibearnation

by Eddie Aderne

“‘She still lives!’ Famed Yellowstone bear emerges from winter—with cubs
A few weeks ago, a nature photographer who lives near Yellowstone national park
sent a four-word text message to Dr Jane Goodall, the British primatologist.
“Miraculously, she still lives!”
The photographer, Thomas Mangelsen, was referring to a grizzly bear known as “399”
[…]. At 24, not only is she one of the oldest grizzlies living outside a zoo, she has also
continued having cubs to a venerable age…”
The Guardian

“The affair is over. Clarissa lives.” 
—Samuel Richardson, Clarissa

She lives! The world of Yellowstone
Rejoices rightly in its own:
399, grand matriarch,
The grizzly glory of the Park,
Has reappeared, aged 24,
With one delightful litter more.
No wonder primatologists
Are waving flags and bumping fists
In honour of 399—
Though honestly, how anodyne
A name that is, and quite unfair
For such a venerable bear!
Let’s therefore try to celebrate
More fittingly. Though mortal Fate
So often takes, it sometimes gives;
Be thankful: Grizzalissa lives.

Titan Works Loose

by Ruth S. Baker

“Saturn’s moon Titan is zooming away from its ringed parent 100 times faster than scientists
expected. … Previous research has suggested that the moon should be moving away from Saturn
at just 0.04 inches (0.1 cm) per year. But this new work suggests that Titan is actually moving
away from its planet at a whopping 4.3 inches (11 cm) every year.”
Space.com

Saturn’s moon Titan is zooming away,
Responding to nothing his father can say.
Saturn sits wretchedly wringing his rings.
“Well,” rumbles Neptune, “it’s one of those things;
Titan’s a teen (in billennial terms);
One word of rotation, he fidgets and squirms;
Helium bores him, he wanes all he can—
Just try to remember, a moon’s his own man.
Children today—there’s not much to be done,
But back them, and hope they’re not rude to the Sun;
Pull all you like, you can’t hold him, my dear.
He’s leaving, at 4.3 inches per year.”

Cheers for Chaz

by Nora Jay

“Seattle protesters take over city blocks to create police-free… ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,’ or ‘Chaz’…”
The Guardian

They’ve nixed the old rules in Seattle,
And long may true justice be done!
Yet shaking around in my head, like a rattle,
Is Animal Farm—chapter 1.

Cleri-news

by Catherine Chandler

Here are five clerihews
Based on the news
Of this past week
Which was dark and depressing and scary and bleak:

1.
Trump tweeted: “Sleepy Joe” Biden
Is in a basement room hidin’!
But guess who rushed like hell to hunker
Down in the White House bunker?

2.
Trump put up an 8-foot fence
When the protests got intense.
I call this the politics
Of shitting bricks.

3.
Melania is the paragon of style.
But when Donald commanded her to smile
At the Shrine to Pope John Paul
Her grin went AWOL.

4.
Justin Trudeau . . .
Twenty-one seconds too slow
Reluctant to dump
On Donald J. Trump.

5.
Ivanka’s Bible-toting Max Mara purse
Is the subject of scorn and nonsense verse.
But her daddy’s faux-righteous pose
Speaks louder than volumes of prose.

Non-Pathetic Fallacy

by Nora Jay

“Gun owners are taking photos of themselves pointing weapons at their genitals with the safety off”
The Guardian

Here’s what you need to understand:
A guy ungunned’s a guy unmanned;
So when I point at this with that
It shows you I’m no scaredy-cat.
I’ve got them both between my legs
As mighty as two tinder-kegs;
Safety’s for sissies! that’s our cry:
Trust Trump and keep your powder dry.

German Welfare

by Julia Griffin

“Covid-19 expert Karl Friston: ‘Germany may have more immunological ‘dark matter’
[He explains this:] “people who are impervious to infection, perhaps because they are
geographically isolated or have some kind of natural resistance. This is like dark matter
in the universe: we can’t see it, but we know it must be there to account for what we can see.”
The Guardian

Though concealed from human sight,
There’s some Angelegenheit
Giving virus contravention
For authentic deutschen Menschen.
Every parent, aunt, and uncle
Has some substance, real though dunkel,
(Not mere mask or hasty hanky)
Keeping them from getting krank(y).
While we’re puking and/or mewling,
They therefore can savor Frühling;
While our health or incomes slacken,
Watch them Spaziergang machen!
Does some natural selection
Make them stärker als Infektion?
Is it geographic distance
Granting them this odd Resistenz?
Maybe there’s a magic circle
Drawn by their angelic Merkel;
Let’s just say (abjuring malice):
Deutschland’s scoring über alles.

To Wear, or Not to Wear?

by Bruce Bennett

A belch in a mask is quite hideous.
The stench that it makes is insidious.
But if, when it’s off,
You happen to cough,
The looks you will get are invidious.

Tot Up the Bodies

by Julia Griffin

“Speaking at the Hay literary festival, which is entirely online this year due to the coronavirus
pandemic, the Wolf Hall author said the Tudors ‘were very good at quarantine in those days.
They took it very seriously. I think [Thomas Cromwell] would have locked us down for a bit longer’.”
The Guardian

He, Cromwell, skims his spies’ communiqués,
Absorbing all he needs. French numbers down,
But Muscovy’s are up. The lockdown stays.
Great merchants are protesting, but the Crown
Supports him still. He questions, making sure
(He, Cromwell), and the grave physicians nod:
The pestilence persists, there is no cure
But vigilance. They put their trust in God,
And in him, Cromwell. Let us keep indoors,
Therefore, to worship, for it needs no priest;
Confine all travellers from foreign shores
Till Lammastide, or two score days at least.
He smiles. Should any venture to be lax,
He, Cromwell, has the dungeons, and the axe.

Bloody-Minded

by Ruth S. Baker

“Crab blood to remain big pharma’s standard as industry group rejects substitute”
The Guardian

The best type of lab blood
Is known to be crab blood:
No substitute liquor will do.
What makes it so proper?
Primarily copper,
The source of its elegant hue.

The tests all confirm it:
The blood of the Hermit
Will clot near a drug that’s impure;
Thus Pharma’s equations
Depend on crustaceans—
Employed under contract, I’m sure.

Photo Op

by Gail White

Although you may feel that your peace has been shaken,
You know you’re not left in the lurch
When your President (moi) has his photograph taken
In front of his neighborhood church.

Your governors (dumb as a parcel of pullets)
Do nothing at all! But I’m proud
That I had the courage to spray pepper bullets
And gas on a peaceable crowd.

It’s true, my first act was to run to the basement
And turn all the lights out and hide,
But now you can see what my shelt’ring in place meant—
Sheer brilliance! And I haven’t died.

I’m truly the greatest world leader since Nero,
I’m keeping America free—
So get out the vote for your savior, your hero,
Your favorite President—ME!

Trump and Churchill

by Bruce Bennett

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany compared President Trump’s visit to a church to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspecting bomb damage during World War II.

Sure, Trump’s like Winston Churchill:
A Bible in his hand,
he poses at the Church front,
the way such heroes stand.

But wait. There’s something missing.
This wasn’t quite the Blitz,
and Trump relied on tear gas.
And Churchill had his wits.

Miscast

by Dan Campion

“I am your president of Law and Order.”
Donald J. Trump

If Don’s a DA, I’m Clark Kent,
A boast non compos mentis.
He’ll always be, as president,
The host of The Apprentice.

Risorgimento

by Eddie Aderne

“Italian village underwater since 1994 could resurface
The [13th century] village of Fabbriche di Careggine, in Tuscany, Lucca province, was flooded in 1946
to build a hydroelectric dam …
Submerged under 34 million cubic meters of water, the still intact
structures of the abandoned village—including stone houses, a bridge, a cemetery and the San
Teodoro Church—reemerge only when the dam is emptied for maintenance.
According to local
tourism officials, this has happened only four times: in 1958, 1974, 1983 and 1994.”

—CNN

Near the quarries of Carrara
Lies a village all alone:
Three-arched bridge and campanile,
Ancient houses all of stone,

With the church of Teodoro
And its final resting ground,
All subsumed by engineering
And professionally drowned.

While her stony phantom sisters
High-and-dryly freeze or bake,
Lost Fabbriche bathes her frescoes
In a redirected lake;

Only once in every decade
When the maintenance is due
Is the weight of water lifted,
And the land returned to view.

Then the bell-tower damply splutters
And the bell shakes off its rust,
While the cemetery shivers
With the soft return of dust,

And a faint pavana echoes
Through the bridge, long water-jammed,
To salute those strange fiestas
When the dead are all undammed.

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…