Poems of the Week

Our Pal Joey

by Nora Jay

“Joe Biden tops Democratic field with $6.3 million haul on first day of 2020 bid”
—The Guardian

Progressives can’t abide poor Joe
Because of slips from long ago,
Yet he abides, ambitious still
Despite #MeToo and Dr. Hill.
A body has a right to bide
While lively breath remains inside;
Two slogans mark Joe’s patient climb:
Biden his Time. Biden: His Time.

International Respect for Chickens Day

by Ed Shacklee

Aretha Franklin, sounding unrehearsed,
once sang respect is given, not coerced;
but though a million radios dispersed

her urgent wisdom, eloquently versed,
beneath the beat the message was submersed.
Yet as we’d wish if roles had been reversed,

let’s give the hens respect for which they thirst
and pecks of praise, with cheering interspersed,
their kindnesses with kindness reimbursed.

Some cluck or shake their heads—their lips are pursed,
for pride’s the sour milk on which we’re nursed—
convinced that men are best when we’re the worst;

but on this day when broody chickens burst
with pride, we should, with eggs, admit: they’re first.

Cassowary Kills Owner

by Ed Shacklee

She killed her owner—a misnomer:
nor can you call her cage a home. Her
nature’s free, her aspect fierce.
Her head is blue. Her claws can pierce.
Her beak can rend, her outrage slay,
and plans will often gang aglay,
as Burns about a mouse might say.

How could a man, so old and frail,
outface a bird he kept in jail?
Though he did so to keep her safe,
how could she know; who would not chafe
to be so circumscribed and bounded?
Her kindly captor died, astounded,
within a park he’d named and founded

when, stumbling as he brought her rations,
she surpassed his expectations.
For he was kind, but she was prisoned:
though this was not what he envisioned,
she was amoral as the fairies,
and this dénouement seldom varies
when men grow fond of cassowaries.

Windsor Blues

by Julia Griffin

“Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK set for 3 June”
—BBC News

Pity the Queen, whose royal post
Dictates which guests she has to host.
Despite a national campaign,
The Trumps will soon be here again
And who is going to suffer most?

We’ll have to hear him crow and boast;
She’ll hear him o’er the morning toast,
And never once will she complain.
Pity the Queen.

She has to smile and look engrossed
While Philip snorts some gruff riposte;
The protocol she must maintain
Forbids her to parade disdain
Like Mrs. Trump, that haughty ghost,
For this is what it means to reign.
Pity the Queen.

An Eye for Brunei

by Nora Jay

“Brunei defends death by stoning for gay sex in letter to EU …
In a four-page letter to MEPs, the kingdom’s mission to the EU called for ‘tolerance, respect and understanding’ with regard to the country’s desire to preserve its traditional values and ‘family lineage.’ … [The later states, in part:] ‘The penal sentences of hadd—stoning to death and amputation—imposed for offences of theft, robbery, adultery and sodomy, have extremely high evidentiary threshold, requiring no less than two or four men of high moral standing and piety as witnesses, to the exclusion of every form of circumstantial evidence.’”
—The Guardian

Please grant us some respect and understanding
For penalties which holiness condones
Like beating and beheading and behanding,
And pelting with divinely sanctioned stones.

It’s tolerance we’re asking, for such values
As whipping men who go around in frocks:
A means our wise defenders of morale use
To complement the showerings of rocks.

We only want our families protected
From sodomy, adultery, and theft;
We find, when robbers’ wrist bones are bisected,
They’re much more honest with the half that’s left.

Don’t fancy execution will come easy:
Four witnesses, male, pious, and unbent,
Must testify, though horrified and queasy,
To each depraved, disgusting incident;

With evidential threshholds for conviction
Established thus so dizzyingly high,
Let none (however sexually sick) shun
The luxury hotels of chaste Brunei.

Anna Sorokin

by Ruth S. Baker

“’Anna Delvey,’ Fake Heiress who Swindled N.Y.’s Elite, is Found Guilty” 
—The New York Times

She partied with the richest belles
(Her chutzpah was sublime),
Till, after buying so much else,
She could not buy more time.


by Julia Griffin

“Police seize ‘super obedient’ lookout parrot trained by Brazilian drug dealers. … 
The bird joins a growing list of animals implicated in Brazil’s drug trade, although most have been reptiles.
The Guardian

A sinister psittacine skill
Developed in sunny Brazil
Is to let out a whoop
When the constables swoop
In pursuit of some criminal pill.

These parrots are heterodox,
And thinking outside of the box;
For the drug-pushers’ list
Is supposed to consist
Of carnivorous gators and crocs.

Numbers Game

by Dan Campion

The Democrats now have a score
Who’d tangle with the Don.
They fear an internecine war,
Where allies fall upon

Each other, not the rival band.
They’re right to share those fears.
If open taps dilute the brand,
The Don gets four more years.

But in the other camp, the tents
Are haunted by defeat.
A specter stalks their occupants:
Some single fatal tweet.

Graham Crackers

by Edmund Conti

“Franklin Graham attacks Pete Buttigieg for being gay, says he should repent”
—ABC News

He thinks that Mayor Pete is a sinner
And what Trump does is none of our biz.
Says Franklin, “I’m riding a winner
And that is the way that it is.”