Tuesday, June 28, 2005


by Michael Dennis Mooney

In 1950 all the cars were black.
You could see it in the photos
Of them parked along the street.
You might say they were dark blue,
Slate grey, Sherman Tank green?
Perhaps. In the photos they're black.
Also dark, shades of dark chocolate,
The fedoras and overcoats men wore;
Black galoshes had big black buckles.
Ink-dark fountain pens in starchy shirts,
White handkerchiefs in somber suits,
Outfits serious enough to be buried in.
Satchels lugged to the train in the dark
Carried the burden of working at dawn.
Polka dot dresses in dark navy, for women,
Went with white gloves, even a gardenia!
A string of pearls would be more likely.
Rotary phones, desktop radios, clocks were black;
Ditto Remington typewriters, tommy-guns.
Refrigerators, medicine cabinets were white.
Doctor's bags, stethoscopes were black,
Nurses' dresses, their shoes, hats, white.
It was a noir world.

The everpresent cigarettes were white.
The flashing grins were pearly white.
They did not know what they were doing,
Smoking themselves to death happily
In emulation of tough guy Humphrey Bogart.
Here's looking at you kid! Have a smoke?
My chest's getting a little tight -- must be love.
It was also the era of the TB ward.
The x-rays were, of course, in monochrome.
My uncle wed his TB ward nurse;
Their five beautiful daughters are
Blooms from the graveyard's edge.

Cocktails, also everpresent, were silvery.
Straight up? On the rocks? Olive?
The slick silvery rails of a train straight to hell.
Coffee next morning, perked, black, three lumps,
In thick white diner mugs, was a mighty engine
Towing you back to the station for your next run.
If you could stay sober 'til happy hour
You could deny you were a drunk,
No matter how unhappy.

The family albums were in black and white.
(That's where I found the pictures of the cars.)
The Daily Mirror was in black and white.
There was no real TV then, not widespread.
There were the newsreels at the theater,
Then the movie, on Saturday afternoon.
When TV finally did come in big
The newsmen smoked while interviewing celebs
(Hell, doctors smoked while taking your pulse)
The air was grey.

I remember when we got our first TV.
Eisenhower was president, circa '53.
Soon I was full of images of cowboys,
Roy Rogers, Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy.
Riding white horses, fighting men in black,
Using pearl-handled revolvers, silver bullets,
Playing cards with Bat Masterson.
(The hearts, the diamonds were black.)
I remember I dreamed in black and white.

Years later my kid brother,
Being young and full of it,
Had to be different:
He claimed he dreamed in technicolor.
I had to hand it to him.
That was pretty good.

Uses For Your Duct Tape

"If the Egyptians had had duct tape,
the Sphinx would still have a nose."
-- Garrison Keillor

This stuff is so versatile and useful.
Think of the things you could do with it,
While young George is out back attacking beehives
With his brand new baseball bat.

Okay, let's see? Our heating and a/c ducts,
Per se, are intact. There is a hole
In the back door screen -- Cousin George, too,
With his fishing lure. He's a terror, that boy.

A little bit of tape on the tear here
Will keep out a few bees.
And when Georgie gets his brand new bat broken
We can patch together his toy good as ever.

Right under where it says Louisville Slugger
Burned into the label, right under where the wood
Splinters like a man at arms gravely injured,
We can smoothly wrap and wind the silvery stuff.

Now, there, it's like it was never busted.
All is made whole. Don't worry, George.

-a poem by Michael Dennis Mooney

[March 2003]

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sequellae To Our Campaign Of Slaughter

by Michael Dennis Mooney

A fifteen million dollar helicopter crashes,
Brought down by a farmer with an old Czech rifle.
An M1 tank, state of the art, tips over into a muddy river
And its entire crew is killed. Similarly by accident,
We shoot down our best fighter jet with a ground-to-air missile;
Zap! Poof! Zeus-like power, misdirected by a "software glitch".
A maintenance convoy takes a wrong turn in the streets of Nasiriyah,
And ends up captured, missing, killed, or p.o.w.'d.

Among the missing are young women.
They are likely being raped as we listen
To Rumsfeld spinning the news on TV.

He says, support our troops.
He has a lot of goddam nerve!

Nineteen-year olds, twenty-year olds, a year out school, babies!
Are coming home today to their weeping mothers at the airport;
Out of the planes come their flag-draped coffins;
Inside those coffins, they are dressed in clean new uniforms;
Their accompanying papers award them "distinguished service" posthumously;
Also, they are awarded death benefits, burial costs.

The U.S. and its young soldiers went to war last week,
And now we have dozens of our youngsters back.
They were killed mostly by the accidents of our campaign
To slaughter Iraqi conscripts, who are wisely fleeing.

[Spring, 2003]


The United States Needs A Regime Change

George W. Bush is using weapons of mass destruction.
The U.N. should form a coalition and stop him.

The United States needs a regime change.

George W. Bush is destabilizing the Middle East
With an unprovoked invasion and merciless slaughter.

The United States needs a regime change.

He is the unstable leader of a rogue state, reckless,
And has no foresight about the consequences of his actions.

The United States needs a regime change.

His government consists of corporate cowboy honchos:
Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz are the Axis of Evil.

The United States needs a regime change.

Maddie Albright and Condi Rice are the Ladies' Auxiliary of Evil.
Colin Powell and John Mc Cain are the True Blue Boy Scouts of Evil.

The United States needs a regime change.

Bush is turning Iraqi towns into rubble-strewn shooting galleries,
Making the heart of Mesopotamia into a cruise missile test-fire range.

The United States needs a regime change.

Baghdad's buildings are smoking hibachis filled with the dead,
This the fuming retort in which Islamist hatred is bred.

I'll tell you what the U.S. needs, representative government.
The United States needs a regime change.

[Spring, 2003]

Watching CNN On Drugs

by Michael Dennis Mooney

"I had to have an operation last week and had
the unique experience of being laid-up in the
hospital watching CNN on drugs."

-- Senator John Kerry, Spring 2003

All the banks in Baghdad have been looted.
Mobs with guns pushed right past the guards.
They're throwing piles of dinars in the air,
Tearing 100-dinar notes like confetti,
Each one bearing a likeness of Saddam.
No one in Baghdad can write a check
To pay a bill, or to pay for anything.
There is no money in any of the banks.

The archives, likewise, have been looted.
There are no records left of any deeds to property.
No one can sell a property or dispute a claim.
One might as well lay claim to the four winds.

The National Library of History has been emptied.
Ancient manuscripts and books there all are gone.
The books have been stolen by ignoramuses.

The Museum of Antiquities has been sacked,
7,000 year-old stone tablets, statues, urns,
All are gone. Old Hammurabi surely made a law --
But then Old Hammurabi's gone among the lawless!

A garbage truck's flying erratically down the street.
Even garbage is part of the looters' haul.

No hospital in this city can do surgery.
Besides the fact there is no electricity,
Too much equipment here was stolen
By angry mobs who smashed what they couldn't take.
A taxi, doors flung open, careening, stops.
A dead body is lying on its back seat.
This taxi is the new impromptu ambulance.
The ambulances have been stolen by the looters.
Nineteen thousand bombs have fallen these three weeks,
And no hospital in Baghdad can do surgery.
The doctors curse a blue streak; they carry pistols;
The nurses walk around in tears.

At the Ministry of Health the refrigerators
Holding the key vaccines for the whole country
Have been unplugged, stolen for quick-buck resale.

Being guarded by U.S. troops, the Ministry of Oil
(Unlike Education and Health being laid waste to)
Does not have all its assets safe from the locust plague.
Resourceful looters are themselves drilling for oil.
They are drilling holes in the pipeline in the desert
And carrying drums of the black goop away,
To be used for home heating and for sale.

Many of the looters are now feeling guilty
And turning in their booty at the mosques
Where it is being registered by clerics,
A chandelier here, there a gold plated faucet.
The city is one giant lego set
Kicked under the bed, scattered to pieces.
It'll never be put back together the same.

Now that the place has been wrecked beyond recognition,
A crime far worse than Al Qaeda's attack on New York,
Now comes the era of reconstruction!
The U.S. Army holds a big public meeting
For civil servants who want to go back to work
(Police in this line, engineers here, doctors over there.)
They'll get paid in U.S. dollars. Iraq will be the fifty-first state
For years, its twenty-three million people on welfare.
Children in hospitals, peppered with shrapnel,
Fingers blown off, need not apply for the new prosperity.

What are the chances that George W. Bush's can-do army
Would roll into Newark, Detroit, or South Central L.A.
And say, Let's all get together and go to work,
Let's spend billions from our treasury,
Let's make things permanently better
And put a smile on the face of the people?

[April, 2003]

shrub's second 'naugural
after e.e. cummings

mista and missus dumbass americans
this day january twentyish is the first day
of the resta yer bush administrayshun
and i mr g dubya dumbass the second
am delighted to take the lead as yer dumbass in chief
we need to provide more security for our peoples
and hep the economy by gettin rid of needle-less paperwork
plus southern fried english will become the official lingo
of these here united dumbass states

[note: shrub = junior bush]

Saturday, June 25, 2005

On the Holidays

by Michael Dennis Mooney

Gather round the turkey feast.
Look on this poor carved-up beast
Who yodeled with vivid animal joy
And all the barnyard did annoy.
His offenses were not overlooked.
He, with his friend the goose, is cooked.
As this doomed bird is cannibalized,
I will the holidays anatomize.

No? You're given to veganism,
Repelled by meat-eating paganism?
Gather round the green beans almondine!
Soon you'll resemble a stringed bean.
With those beans, you'll want some rice.
Too bad you can't have cheese, 'd be nice.
What? Cashews? Huh? Cashews? 'shundheit!
No? You can't have a pickled egg?
Would you could gnaw on this poultry leg.

You have your list of things to do.
Now, have I an idea for you?
Know how you rush the season, put up lights,
The tree, right away Thanksgiving Night?
-- A giant, vinyl turkey, inflatable,
A light inside, butter in the Butterball,
Plunked in the front yard, day after Halloween.
On to another holiday! No breather in between.
This need to do, this compulsivity,
This hyperorganized activity
In arranging for warmth, festivity,
Against the oncoming cold, dark season,
Brings the strain of overdoing without reason.

This getting in touch with your Inner Martha,
Arranging for warmth where there's a dearth!
I remember your last holiday dinner,
As a perfunctory show an all-time winner.
Few could attend, so it was "intimate".
All were intent on staying Atkins skinny.
When we'd eaten a morsel of turkey, stuffing,
I was made to seem a perfect ruffian
For gazing at the dishes whisked away,
Most of all the mashed potatoes, gravy.

Mom had had an operation -- and had gained!
Hyperglycemia caused Dad to refrain.
Junior's spirits were on the wane
Because a divorce had caused such pain.
Even Grandma showed much passion
For staying slim and fitting into fashion.
None could summon the will to eat,
Though each dish held a tantalizing treat.
I had traveled all this way
Only to see the dishes whisked away.

Perhaps you'll recall the card I sent.
No one could have mistaken my intent.
It was full of news, my jokes, my thoughts.
Your reply was a perfect, empty nought.
Under the phrase, Happy Holidays!,
Your name's not signed, it is engraved.
I hardly know which agency to thank --
It might as well be sent me by my bank.
I think I should thank your printer
For thawing my bones, warming my winter.

And I should thank your personal assistant
For the very thoughtful gift she sent.
Who knew I wanted fruits and nuts
Brought to me by a Fed-Ex truck,
Arranged by one, two deft mouse clicks,
Backed-up with requisite credit card digits?

Not decor, not food, not card, nor present
Can speak so clear a sentiment
As your talk, in this case your excuses,
Schmoozing and Hypocrisy your muses!
The reason you don't waste a drop of ink
To tell us what goes on or what you think:
"To talk on the phone is much more versatile,
And, after all, it's much more personal."
Likewise, to order gifts online
"Is more reliable than to shop and stand in line."

I can see the note in your appointment book:
"Take M. out to dinner; won't have to cook."
You're a slick business-culture people pleaser --
Yet just another kind of Ebenezer.
For all your lights, food, cards and gifts,
You leave your friends and family feeling miffed
By your utter blank-stare lack of feeling.
All our eyes are rolling to the ceiling.
As you make me feel a helpless stooge,
I say you are a Nouveau Scrooge.

You detect some notes of bitterness?
I hope for normal. That get's me depressed.
Like Crosby in L.A. dreaming about snow,
I miss the holidays I used to know.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Celtic Face

Hair of ginger and sweet brown sugar,
Skin of alabaster, whiter, smoother
Than steep walls of new-laid plaster,
Brow's pallid glow, a polished marble,
Throat's blush, a white rose pinkening,
Eyes, serene pools of green
Radiant in late afternoon,
Quizzing eyes behind clerky glasses,
Happily skeptical, lambent with knowing,
Piercing gaze that grabs you by the shirt,
Lips tasting fine wines of amusement,
Smiles, blessings, saying live, let live,
Let children play, let them play all day.

Pregnancy In Late July

His love is in the garden.
She is ripe as a brown pear.
Her smile is a water lilly.
Her step, the sway of a laden vine.
She is splendid and at ease.
Seeing her thriving thus,
He feels he makes rain and sun.

Poem of Jack's First Day

When we first met our son Jack
He was a cry heard across the room,
A high-octave pipsqueak wail.
Then the surgeon, smiling, held him high.
He was a flailing package of surprise.
His spread-wide fingers clawed his cheek.
His almond-shaped eyes were open, wildly, madly blue.
His head's shape was beautiful.
He had dark lanugo hair like an Eskimo's,
Ruddy skin pinkening, a deep chest breathing deeply,
Broad hands like a carpenter's in miniature,
And long limbs wheeling in the cold and antiseptic air.
He came to a halt on the warming table,
Under it's sunny light and the nurses' songs of praise,
And found his first repose.
He turned and looked me in the eye,
As I moved in close.
Then we clasped him to us.
He was blanketed like a rescued seaman,
This secret stranger we had been hearing from
By sonar and knocks on the bulkhead wall.
We held agitated get-acquainted talks.
He cried, though he could not tell us why,
And we cried too, to know his voyage ended safely.
Later, I read a magazine by a low light
And watched his sleeping respirations
In the late night quiet
Until I could not sit upright.

[September, 1991]

A Poem of Jack's First Words

I. "DADA," the name that Mamas teach their babies first!
He started with "addy," and "adda adda,"
Then finally he could say "dada."
He said it as early as six months
When he could hardly say boo,
But nobody would believe me.
People told him, "You're Dad is silly,"
And tickled his chin to see him laugh with them.
They were sure he could not talk yet.
He only listened in their noisy rooms,
He was just visiting, looking around, no comment.
But, on the shadowed stair, as I brought him down
From his crib in serene dawn light,
With no one else around to distract his gaze,
He would look me in the eye and stop me cold
With a quiet "Dada!" and a smile.

II. "EDDY," his name for our dog Ted.
Again, his mother's coaching showed,
She was teaching him to name the ones he loved.

III. "BABA," for his formula or milk or juice, his bottle.
Later his bouncing ball was "ba" and "baba,"
Likewise his little rubber baseball bat
Which he held by the fat end and sucked
And waved in the air. His morning banana
With his cereal was always "baba."
A Golden Delicious, a peach, was a "ba,"
A ball of sweetness his mom would cut up
In slippery chunks for his nimble greedy fingers.
Also "baba" became "ball ball," bouncing the ball,
When he saw big kids playing "ball ball" in the park,
He'd go waddling into the basketball game.
He'd have to be pulled out. He'd wail, "BALL BALL!"
He was sure he could play with those kids.

IV. "KITTY," another love object,
Loved for its soft fur
And its contented purring.
Any small animal, a squirrel
Or puppy, was called "kitty."

V. "VROOM!," a sound he loved to make
As cars shot past us
When we drove to daycare.

VI. "M-M-M GOOD!," another imitation of his Mom,
From his introduction to solid foods.

VII. "M-M-MAMA!," Jack finally said "Mama!"
And his mother almost fainted.
After many false starts,
"Emma," "Emmay," and "Emmy,"
Which he said for weeks and months,
His Dad finally got the idea
And established a firm tutelage,
Continually modeling "Mama" as an address.
Then one day while eating he said, "M-M-Mama!."

VIII. "COOKIE," a tasty treat to munch
With new teeth.

IX. "BOBEE," for flying marvels in the yard,
Big blackbirds, for gulls that swooped down at the beach
As he ran to them with handfuls of popcorn.
Later, he used "Bobee" for Big Bird on TV,
Though that dodo seemed incapable of flight.

X. "AWGEE," the actual name of his cousin's dog.
Later, he learned to call Ted "Awg."
On the TV shows we watched, the bears, the lions,
Most creatures, were "awgs."
But the unicorn was "kitty."
At a circus parade, an elephant
Was an awesome-- deep breath-- "BIG AWG!"

XI. "UH-OH!," another dinnertime word,
For when he dumped his plate
From his highchair perch,
Making a mess for us
And a feast for "awg."
Soon he would use "uh-oh!,"
With a big full-faced smile,
To make us laugh
When we were tense or upset.

XII. "PRETTY!," his name for his mother's earrings,
Her necklace, her smile, her eyes.

XIII. "HI DAD!," a greeting his "Pretty Mama" modeled.
I got to hear it every day when I came home.

XIV. "HEY GEE!," this his greeting for the "awg."

XV. "PUMPTHIN," his first round object
That was not a "ba."
At October's end
His Mom transformed it
Into a lantern.
That magic night
We went out on a walk.
All the neighbors had one
In their windows,
And he couldn't believe
All the "pumpthins!"

XVI. "BA-DOW!," Jack's word for excitement.
When a train crashed in a TV movie,
With the onlookers screaming, "Lookout!"
Our boy yelled, "Bow! Bow! Ba-Dow!"
He derived it from the children's game
At daycare: "All Fall Down!"
(Yes, Ring Around The Rosie.)

XVII. "PEAR," his only fruit that was not a "ba,"
Softer and more sweet.

XVIII. "GET DOWN?," his urgent request to be released
From his highchair, his playpen, my arms.
Our Jack now lived by the "Get Down!" imperative,
His continual need to go off and toddle,
Explore, and knock things over, "Uh-Oh!"
And to fall down, "Ba-Dow!"
As we were watching football on TV,
The players collided and tumbled to the grass:
"Booboo Down!" -- daycare his model for this, too,
A playground mishap. He was delighted,
On TV they repeated it over and over.
This new game, football, was "Booboo Down."

XIX. "PEASE?," his asking for "More, please"
When there's no more milk in his "ba."
(He was not asking for peas.)

XX. ... And now this latest was not really a word,
But a marvelous and fun linguistic exercise
With a mouthful of milk: "PTH-TH-TH! PTH-TH-TH!"
The raspberry! It tells adults
To try and have some fun. Let's play.

[October, 1992]

Tantalus In Greek Myth

Tantalus, in Greek myth, is standing on tiptoes
And up to his chin in water.
Above his head is a branch laden with ripe fruit.

He cannot open his mouth,
Though he is perishing from thirst;
He cannot open his mouth,
Though he is starved;
He cannot open his mouth:
He cannot eat fruit or drink water,
Because he will surely succumb to the flood.

He cannot open his mouth to cry out.
He is tortured by abundant hydration,
By a plenty he cannot have,
By unfulfilled appetite.

II. Tantalus At Denny's

Well, I guess the grand slam is out.
All those hotcakes, butter, syrup,
Sausage, bacon, eggs, etc!
Washed down with coffee, cream, sugar,
Maybe a glass of orange juice.
Then there's the coffee refills, more sugar.
Too many total calories.

I'll have the salad. Yes, low-fat dressing.
The chicken breast with carrots, rice.
A diet coke. No, no dessert.

No, don't bring me any water.

Upon Crossing The Hellespont Into Asia

Plutarch described Alexander the Great
Having melting blue eyes, light skin, blond hair,
A natural sweet scent that perfumed his robes, etc.
Typical homoerotic nonsense of antiquity!

Okay, the kid looked good, and he bathed.
Looking godly astride Bucephalus,
Clean in white plumes, silver breastplate,
He forded the Granicus under rains of javelins,

Clambered up steep muddy banks,
And stormed the fortifications near Troy.
He was a prime target! An Asian chieftan
Knocked him silly with a battle axe,

Cleaving plume from helmet.
Black Cleitus saved him, spearing his attacker.
And the Macedonians sent those Persian boys
Running home crying to their mamas.

After the battle, as the Greeks lay 'round,
Having their way with slave women, with one another,
They raised many a purple-mouthed smile
To Dionysius, god of vinous sateity.

Some of those who narrowly survived the slaughter,
After many a quart of unwatered wine,
Did not survive the debauch.

The conversations, though, had been good.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Body Electric Is Testing Positive

Were Walt Whitman alive today
He'd write a poem designed to say:
The whole world has HIV,
And you don't want to fuck with me.

He'd read his poem on talk TV,
With Geraldo on MSNBC.

Young, black, from Queens, and gay,
You'd know him by what he had to say:
Don't kiss me on the lips! That stuff
Is out! Just jerk me off! E...nough!

He'd tell you how it had to be,
As he read his poem on cable TV.

He'd be "into hip-hop;" Hip
To its links to jazz; Whit
His nickname; Dread
His hair; Frankness his daily bread.

He'd read his poem on MTV
And warn the world it had HIV.

Some Short Poems

On Your Birthday

On your birthday
I wish you sincerely
Not just cursorily
A very happy
Full of mirth day
A very smurfy
Blue faced smurf day
A going out for
Surf-n-turf day
A making out like
Murph the Surf day
A wow you gotta
Lotta nerve day
A drive to the hoop
Get on your swerve day
And if last year
It was a smirched day
This year twill be
Reverse the curse day


Armenians Are Sweet

Armenians are sweet,
Full of phyllo, nuts and honey;
They like to buy some pabklava
When they get a little money.


Tina Marie

Volupshus, Volupshus Tina Marie!
No! Tina Marie! Don't sit on my knee!
I got an old football injury.
Now it's gonna need surgery.


A Few Words About Credit Rates

(to the tune of Good King Wenceslas)

Retail stores throw wide their doors,
Their rates just short of stealing.
Interest rates are going up,
Going through the ceiling.
Credit cards will cost you more
Than if you paid at the store.
You'll lose an unholy war
If you use your sto-o-ore card.

[December, 2004]


Mrs. Noonan

Mrs. Noonan, soccer mom and "communist,"
Freckled, red-haired, smiling friend to man,
Sweet, hazel eyed, 2nd trombonist, harmonist,
And, at night, old lucky Noonan's concubine.


Alfred Earl Tennisknickers

Alfred Earl Tennisknickers
In rolled-up white flannels
(He also wore flannels in bed)
Was out on the lawns.
He was sprinting about,
Striking an attitude,
Missing the ball.


Valentines For A New Age

Would you, my sweet, agree to be
My Monica Lewinsky?

Sorry, that I cannot be,
But I can be your Hillary.

Urban Search And Rescue

September 12th, early a.m. hours

I am searching for you
Under the ash, the debris,

The collapsed edifice
Of your anxious defenses,

Scattered to bits,
Blown down on the winds.

I find only shards and artifacts of you.
I want to give up the search.

My memory of you
Is shattered glass in the dark.

A torn shoe in the dust,
I imagine your fleeing step.

A ring sheared in half,
I see your hand reaching the door.

A blank check, I make it out
To me and sign your name.

An appointment book, rifled by wind,
In the jumbled mess on the ground,

I note with bitterness
It lists the hundred ways

You distract yourself from your life.
I want to give up the search.

What is so important
About any of these things now?

I am searching for you
But there is no you here,

Only indications of you,
And I want to give up.

(Some things don't change,
That's how you were before.)

There are signs you might hear my voice
Calling down into the gaps in the rubble,

But you cannot find
The consciousness to respond.

I know you're wearing your beeper,
Carrying your phone.

But you are out of service.
I think I hear moans.

I want to think I hear you,
But I want to give up the search.

There are hangers-on here
Concocting urban legends

Of lives intact in a
Basement under the rubble!

They claim to have been
In contact with the missing,

Yet they have been proven to be liars.

They need to believe
They work in a heroic cause,

But they are just picking through the trash here.

I know I will not find you have survived.
I want to give up, I am so tired.

I think you might hear
My shoes treading the planks

Across treacherous fields
Of wreckage in the rain.

I am shining my flashlight
Down between the boards

Into the cavernous, unanswering dark.
I am screaming your name.

I beg you to save me,
Though I purport to rescue,

I beg you to save me from this loss.


Monday, June 20, 2005

On A Slide

a study guide

I feel great! My squiggling cells
Are full of tiny organelles
That are swimming in and out of focus
Via microscopic hocus-pocus.
Shaped like grains, ribosomes
Carry RNA. Like rhyming poems,
They make new living tissue
That duplicates the old standard issue.
Ribosomes are found on the sides
Of long, thin tubes from the nuclei
Called endoplasmic reticula,
One of the bigger terms in our curricula.
Then there's mitochondria.
Shaped like rods, or fascia,
They're bundles of fuel, they're mighty mites.
They light the fires, turn on the lights.
Also not spied by the naked eye
Are the dense, dark cellular nuclei,
Where rank and file are told what to do,
There in the little cell's HQ.
Robust ribonucleic acids
Keep our cells from being flaccid.
You could guess this by deduction,
As they power cell reproduction.
In the general cytoplasm
Are vacuoles, sacs of protoplasm,
Rather like big bags of groceries.
Is that a metaphoric gauchery?
In plants, those green globs, chlorophyll,
Perform the subtle miracle
Transforming radiant energy
Into a nutritive chemistry.
Cell walls, called integument,
Hold cells together like rubber cement
In plants. In creatures, membranes
Are flexible skins which can contain
The elements of cell protoplasm,
Both nucleus and cytoplasm.
Oxidative phosphorylation
(For which there's no rhyming correlation)
Will be our study topic Monday.
Be sure to read that chapter Sunday.
Ditto, adenosine triphosphatase,
Which we will discuss for several days.

[other things need to be in your biology lecture spoof,
microvilli, golgi bodies, centripetal invagination
would be good to add, cytoplasmic streaming, and don't
forget the phases of mitosis: from a biologist friend's e-mail.]

cytoplasmic streaming
pinch me, i must be dreaming
microvilli, golgi bodies
get me thinking naughty

centripetal invagination!
it stimulates my imagination
i don't know what it is yet
but it sends me straight to kismet

the various mitosis phases
the 23 diploids doubling
create a magic that amazes
a lively alchemical bubbling


But for mitosis, we might all
Remain about twenty inches tall.
And our aims would need be small.
We could forget about basketball.
Our dog might be a big eight-incher.
He'd be a less than fearsome pinscher.
Our cat, equally a miniature,
Could hide in the cushions of the furniture.
Her mice would be a pain in the ___.
They couldn't be found with a magnifying glass.
Submicroscopic would be their fleas,
Peskier 'cause impossible to see.
Neither the naked nor the aided eye
Could perceive these fleas unfeasible to seize!
(Indeed, to enable such flea-seizures
We would need submicroscopic tweezers.)
Our careers would be in new industries,
Prinicipally nanotechnologies.
These we'd feature in our schools,
Ours the age of molecules.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Mom's Mnemonics

verses for Mom's nine decades

When Coolidge was the president
A flapper would wear a gin flask in her stocking.
As Cole Porter said, anything went!
A long cool glimpse of lingerie wasn't shocking.
Jazz Age babies kicked up their heels.
The music screeched like freight train wheels.

Bread lines twisted 'round the corners.
Those out of work lived, often, out of doors.
They rode the rails. They begged at our back doors.
Investors leapt off forty-fourth floors.
Hoover, briefly esconced in office,
Told us he was an economist.

Millions joined the army
And marched off to save England, France.
It seemed the world wore kakhi pants.
Ranting Hitler was clearly barmy --
Calm, grinning Roosevelt would jar his preserves!
As well, he'd build up federal bank reserves.

We liked Truman. We really liked Ike.
Every man got a car, his kid a shiny bike,
A new house in the burbs -- then, to complete the dream,
His missus got a washin' machine.
It seemed you could taste the GNP,
A three-tiered frosted cake, prosperity.

Kennedy was killed in an open car.
Was he murdered for his civil rights agenda?
Lyndon said, "I won't run again,"
Run out of town for his anti-commie war.
Dear Jack, we hardly knew ye.
We had our fill, in no time, of LBJ.

Tricky Nixon outsmarted himself
And put his misdeeds on audiotape.
Gerry Ford fell and hurt his head.
Carter's advisor was his daughter:
Daddy! No more nuke-ier power!
The Seventies were a failure of nerve.

A hack for Borax, a spokesman for G.E.,
Ronald Reagan was a hired hand
In a cowboy suit, a shill for CEO's
And their trickle down economy.
Everybody got two jobs.
They worked til they were too tired to see
What trickled down the hill was shit and pee.

The president with his pants around his ankles
In the Oval Office, the memory rankles.
How did he manage to have a balanced budget,
Create a surplus, get Hillary to forget,
And have his way with us, the electorate?
That man Bill just had a way about him.

Remember when George Bush the elder
Was prez -- we feared we'd get Dan Quayle.
Well, now we've got him. His name is Dubya.
His politics are beyond the pale.
He repealed the surplus, unbalanced the budget,
Then re-subdued the already crushed Iraq.

Say a prayer for future presidents.
Their forebears have set some awful precedents.
Keep your agenda simple.
Keep it domestic.
Put a smile on the face of the people.
That would be fantastic.

Hillary Clinton, I say it will be you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

From A Senior Citzen

I am picturing Dorota
As wearing a straw boater,
Singing row row row yer boat
On Oxford's stream.

Now I see Dorota
Sipping a club soda,
Eating peach compote
And French ice cream.

Then Dorota's in Verona
Dining on pasta roti;
She's saying, "Ah, Madronne!"
Making quite a scene.

Or I envision fair Dorota
In the splashing surf at Cote
D'Azur, turning apricot
In hue, sans sunscreen.

Though she cares not one iota,
Yours truly, this old doter,
Goes on imagining Dorota
In bright dreams:

Now she's driving a Desoto
From Maine to North Dakota;
She really revs the motor,
Makes it scream.

Then she's singing note for note
Her song to a flute recorder;
How melodiously Dorota
Soars and keens.

But the actual Dorota,
Not this imagined ghostly floater-
I claim to've seen,

This all too real Dorota
Can be brisker, rather frothier,
Chillier and far remoter
Than that stream!

In The Annals of Divorce

Andrew O'Herlihy
Had math disability
All his life long
He couldn't do checkbooks
He couldn't do bills
Couldn't read math books
Without ritalin pills
His wife had embezzled
A quarter mill
Before he knew what was wrong

Andy got raggedy
Andy got credit-scammed
Andy got screwed
And then when they broke up
She got the mansion
He got the Mastercard bills
He got a shoebox of bills

Due to numerical
He now takes hustle-up pills
But now he can do all the bills

[Note: To "higgle" a pig
is to fatten it up, by little degrees,
for eventual sale or butchering.]

Hey Whatsamatta

Hey Joanie Baloney
Whatsamatta wit you
I senda da letta
I dont get back no antsa
Say Joanie Baloney
Whatsamatta wit you

Same wit Mawky Malarkey
Yer ignerrent brudder
I senda da letta
He give da cold shoulder
I ask if he got it
He give me da stiff arm
Mr Mawky Malarkey
Tell us what is yer problem

Like I said to ya sista
Hey whatsamatta
Hey Joanie Hey Mawkey
Whatsamatta wit you

Epitaphs On Bar Napkins

lines for my curmudgeon father

Beneath this sod
Lies Marty Mooney.
Just as soon he
Flouted God
He lies beneath!

Oh yeah?

To us bequeath
His long life's lesson.
Morality impressed on
Him was lost on him.

He smoked, he drank, he screwed.
He broke the law, was lewd
In speech, was brutal
With women and kids, feudal
In his lordly, outrageous demands.


You might think
You're such a smarty,
Careful to stay in the pink,
Extra careful not to party.

Careful to be good,
And to be good and careful.
Also, careful to be cheerful
And not distress your fellow man.

Consider this:

In this grave,
Here lies our Marty,
His soul unsaved,
His laughter hearty
To the last.
His time has passed.


He disdained your values.
He hated people and their protocols.
He loved his life,
In his own remote fashion.
He lived it recklessly.
He preferred to be alone.

And he lived a long life, man.
Without repercussions.
He lived the normal life span.

End of discussion.


Here lies weary, alcoholic Marty,
Who sometimes was life of the party,
But often was so sick of mankind
He was cynical, paranoid, haughty, and unkind.

Here he lies,
Beneath this cold stone.
In this hard-frost ground
He is at home.

He no longer needs
Unplug the phone.
He is finally, really,
Completely alone.

He is finally, really, completely alone.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Letter To A Young Poet

"Write the book that hasn't been written yet."

Write the book that hasn't been written.
The one experienced but not articulated.
The one spoken but not set down.
The book thought of, yet not thought out.

Do the book that has not been done.
The one you live in your struggles.
That you discuss in your arguments.
That demands you reflect and form opinions.

The book that hasn't been authored
Is the one readers need to find,
But isn't on the shelves,
That undone book you know about.

When it appears on the shelves
In stores, in homes, public libraries,
It'll be seen as the work that was needed.
That was desired in the imagination.

Don't write the book that is a copy of great models,
That echoes ancient diction and such learned pleasures.
Write the book that hasn't been written yet!
Write a new language that is up to the minute.

Write about anything, in no particular order.
Like a columnist, What am I going to write about today?
About anything you experience as urgent these days.
Write about things you must do.

About great oak trees you have gotten to know
Intimately, as Dr. Chekov would know a patient,
The trees you have dug trenches around,
Protected from lightning, trussed with cables.

Saved from the chainsaw, from being carted away
As stacks of fireplace logs on the back of a truck,
Saved from the chipper, from being mulch under a shrub.
Write about the men who help you with the work.

Write about cycling many miles a day through the Adirondacks.
About training many hours a week in the Florida heat.
About hammering the pedals with each cycling stroke.
Flying the hills, down and up, then climbing the peaks.

Write about your daughters and their beauty.
(Incidentally, they get their vivid good looks,
Their glossy black hair from you --
I am, as usual, shameless and embarassing.)

The poems that are your daughters and how they concern you,
About one bringing home a six and a half foot guy from the basketball team,
About her forming a love of literature, and writing poems
(Just like your sister when she was that age, like you.)

About how you haven't seen her since you fixed her car,
Now she's out "sororitizing", developing her life.
Write about your daughters and their lustrous beauty,
As they sit by the pool and study their books.

Their beautiful skin is a lucid poem
Of hope for a future generation:
A granddaughter running for office,
A great grandson hammering pedals in the Alps.

Write about your son. How he was you junior, in didies.
He's now solid, complex, rooted as the oaks you contrive to protect.
How he has his mother's light-complected skin and hair,
Her placid reserve.

Write about your new wife,
How she is good to you and good for you.
How she comes all the way to town to bring you lunch
And you go all the way to the coast each Friday.

That highway between you is the eight-lane expressway of her love!

Write about your sister
And how she is a link to your mother.
Write about your father,
How you are your son's link
To your father's lore and traditions.

And that is just the beginning.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I Read Your Poem

Here at Non Compos Mentis State
They let us keep the lights on late.
I read your poem of the gauzy dawn
And lovemaking that goes on and on --
Made me nostalgic for that age
When I turned the sheet and not the page.

I liked your silken diction, ala Herrick,
Pulsing with vigor like an oil derrick.
Looked up half the words! Such learnedness!
Such lyric impulse! Such earnestness!
I liked your languid lovers; their obscene lolling
Did not seem in the least apalling.

I picture you in a pointed spade of beard,
Reading a book of sonnets, quite dog-eared,
Wearing a black waistcoat, white collar of ruff.
Your lean fingers clasp a silver box of snuff.
You are seated in a gallery hall.
Great worthies' portraits line the wall:

Shakespeare, Raleigh, Ben Johnson,
Marvell, Webster, and old John Donne.


The sodden paper is in the bin.
The circulars, bills, and mail are in.
The geraniums are draining
After watercan-made raining.
The kitten's pretty sitting
By a bowl of gravied chicken.
Messages toll on the phone.
The house lion placidly chews his bone.
Then he brings his tennis ball
And foots it with an agile paw.
He gets no soccer play from me.
He slinks away to the worn settee.
The lizards' lamp is hotly lit,
They hunt down crickets under it.
The cockateil gives out a squeal
That would make your blood congeal.
I then anticipate her needs,
Pouring out a cup of seeds.
The fish are silently swallowing kelp,
I am only here to help.

Can't tell if your e-mail's clogged.
I'd need a password to have, um, on-logged.
Okay, I figured it was artist;
Prefixing it with feckless, that was hardest!
So, in reality, you have messages, three
From the big, bad bank, this one from me:
Check your refrigerator, please.
You're now out of beer and cheese.


Thank you for your coffee pot
Which greets our wakings fresh and hot.
Also, for thick thirsty towels
Awaiting us on sturdy dowels.
For sulfurous hot water, for mild soap,
Without which we could never cope.
For sectioned grapefruit and quartered orange.
For carpeted hall and oiled door hinge.
For many an amenity,
Especially including your a/c:
Made us comfy as a manatee
In a spring-fed stream.
And did I mention your TV?
And lime and tonic and Old Bombay?

Thank you for bottles of Mexican beer
And for your stories filled with cheer.
For vessels of pink lemonade,
Renowned, on hot days, as a thinking aid.
For frosty glasses chucked with ice.
For sunscreen, and for travel advice.
For sizzling fish-fry sandwiches
With tartar sauce and lemon wedge.
Then soup! Chilled cilantro tomato lentil!
Then, feet up! The Sunday Orlando Sentinel!
Ah! As we fly home across the nation,
Thankful of such citrusy hydration,
We will remember ever after
Your bright grin and genial laughter.


I want to paint your soffets.
And I know where they are, too.
Way up there under your eaves.
I want to get on that ladder
And not get off it
Til your soffets are sticky-coated
With layer after layer
Of oozing white (outdoor enamel.)
Am I a romantic or what?

I want to lay it on thick.
I want to extend that ladder
To its full extension.
I want to climb your walls,
All two and a half stories,
Tickling them as I go
With the dripping white-laden brush
Until they gleam and glow
In the Maytime sun and wind.

And after soffets and after walls,
My mind runs to your gutters.
I want to clear them
So they can flush and flow
And carry the stagnant waters
Away from your foundation.
Then I need to sump-pump your basement
So it can be airy and warm
And habitable, a refuge for players
Of ping pong, billiards, gin rummy,
And even spoons!

I want to mow your grass.
I want to haul your trash.
I want to root in your garden
And pick it clean of weeds.
I want to clear out all your brush
And be a scourge to the poison ivy
That bit you with its irritating bite.
I want to plant a screen of trees
Where the neighbors might look at you,
Bikinied on your deck by the pool.
I want to paint your toenails red!

I want to pave your drive
And smooth out all its ruts.
I want to get on your roof
And stride the horizon with my shirt off
(Just incidentally getting a great tan)
Battening down stray shingles,
Vigilant that not one drop
Should leak upon your head.
I want to drive you to the store
And carry your groceries.
I want to fetch your paper from the mailbox.

I want to be handy.
But mainly near to hand.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Philosophy of Inclinations

" La coeur a ses raisons
que le raison ne connait pas." -- Pascal

There is a wisdom
In what we wish for.

Ultimate knowledge
Is in what we love.

Discovery is in our bliss,
And in ecstasy sweet science.

No need to take notes
In this laboratory.

All is memorized in a passion
And will not be forgotten.

In what we prefer is the truth.

Refuting Descartes

The assassin's bullet
Is travelling towards
The statesman's head.

The statesman
Is not thinking
Of the bullet,

Therefore it
Does not exist,
Per the philosopher.

Says the assassin
As his bullet

Splatters brain matter
Onto the lap
Of the philosopher.

The bullet made a sound
As it ripped though the air:
What is is what is.

What you think it is
Is different.

Out For A Walk

When he quit teaching
Friedrich Neitzche
Trod the hills
Near Sils-Maria,
Saying "Alpine air
And I are a pair!
It's bracing as a truth,
Racing like my thoughts,
Panoramic in perspective.
There's a command in its imperative:
Master all that you survey
In the sweep of cultural history
And hammer out a philosophy
With fierce Wotan's audacity."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Back From The Funeral Home

They sent him home from McNulty's Parlor
Though his face had a terrible pallor.
He's not dead yet, they pointedly explained.
It's overwork makes him look so drained.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Her Recent Fake Suicide

not how it was reported in the papers

She tried, and she might have died,
But you cannot commit suicide
With an airbag driver's side,
Nor with a seatbelt.

She hoped it would look accidental,
But mostly this pile of bent metal
Made investigators judgemental,
And loved ones nervous.

She took the not so unusual tactic
Of first becoming ataxic
On pills and liquor, then spastic
On the accelerator.

Should it be thought of as phallic envy?
She tilted at telephone poles in her frenzy,
Felled two in a hurtling catalepsy
Of rage. Then the car expired.

It was worth thirty thousand, and paid for,
But being used to make this big play for
Our hearts was not what it's made for.
That reduced it to scrap.


But first, before she could die,
She had to make someone cry,
And had to get someone to try
To run to her rescue.

So she gave her boyfriend the kiss-off,
Also got her girlfriend quite pissed-off
By calling their plans for a tryst off,
Then staggering to her car.

In all this emotive effusion
And bisexual confusion,
She got more than one contusion
As she fell on the ice.

She got away quick to a gin mill.
There her mental status slid downhill,
Along with her mood, her impulse control,
And her common sense.

She called her psychiatrist's beeper.
Maybe some jargony talk might keep her
From going "off the edge" to reap her
Final (insurance!) reward.

It turns out there might be just reward
For antisocial behavior and fraud,
This hellcat has been declawed.
She must take the bus.


Her girlfriend called the police
To ask them to hurry, puh-lease,
The highways are starting to freeze.
She's automotively amok!

The girlfriend then called the boyfriend,
The boss, the ER, the friends,
And everyone knew in the end
What she had threatened.

She says she's going to kill herself,
But first she'll pill-and-swill herself,
Then go to a motel and thrill herself
With a man, or two, plus pay-per-view.

(For when she feels really sensual
And sex is freely consensual,
She's a closet heterosexual
If you must know.)

She's going completely ballistic!
Few women from Bangor to Mystic
Are so needy and narcissistic
As our Martha Jane.

The phones were ringing everywhere.
This is the new community theater,
Played out in police blotters, the papers,
Court records, and psych evals.


When the phone poles were upended
She was finally apprehended.
Her license was suspended.
She was put in park.

She was put in a police vehicle.
She became sweet and drippy as treacle.
She cried. She rued the ridicule
She might now face.

She was given a fistful of tickets
For court, then a one-way ticket
To a psych ward, but first a side trip
To the ER for her busted coccyx.

Now that she's vented her wrath,
She feels just like Sylvia Plath
As she sets out on a tangled path
In her therapy journal.

Nurses trundle around her like tanks,
Feeding her antidepressants and tranqs.
She tearfully murmurs her thanks.
Oh, they're so nice here.

On a full schedule of therapy daily,
She skips to Anger Management gaily,
She tells sad stories rather feyly
In Death and Dying.

Her girlfriend brings cheese and salami
And chicken soup. They make origami
Together in Art. She has found a mommy
In an old, old friend.

For Christopher and Christine Rem

and their son, Chris

Mr. Chris and Mrs. Chris
Were having their Rem sleep.
Their eyes were moving rapidly,
Their (identical) dreams ran deep.

Their son, young Master Chris, of course,
Would father a race of Chrises.
(First, he'd marry a young Chris Mrs.)
These would include fetching, slim Chris Misses
And a burly troop of brave Junior Chrises.
They'd have reunions on Christmases.

Chris the Thirds! Chris the Fourths!
Chris the Fifths! would follow,
Nurtured by new Mrs. Chrises.

They'd be a dynasty and have a coat of arms
Depicting Chrises star-crossed.

They'd play tennis at Wimbeldon with Miss C. Evert.
They'd never use glassware, only chrystal.
They'd name their dog Columbus --
After a notable Chris who followed his nose.

And the shopping!
They'd buy clothes at the House of Christopher.
They'd go boating on Chris-Craft Cruisers.
They'd bid on fine furnishings and art at Christie's.
Christopher Cross would be their court composer.

They'd found whole industries,
New brand names, and help the economy.
They'd drink Chris Miss Hot Chocolate;
They'd eat Mrs. Chris's Cookies.
And for breakfast, Chris Crispies.

In the crowning moment of the Age of Chris
They'd declare an official religion,

The Persistence Of Shopping

for Bruce Butterfield

Old-age dementia ladies
"Shopping" in each others' rooms,
Going through their neighbors' closets
Like a J.C. Penney's clearance sale,
Want to find something just right.
Family members are coming to visit.
Today is Sunday at the retirement home.

The son comes to see his mother.
She is in bright spirits, having a good day.
"Mom, that short jacket looks good on you."
Then he thinks, she owns no such jacket.
"And that sweater, too. The cat's meow!"
Still thinking, ditto, owns no such outfit.
Funny, he thinks, this will become an anecdote.
Funny, and sad at the same time.

Thank God we took away her car.
Also persisting in old age
Is Mom's impulse to drive to the mall,
Though the store she "remembers"
Is in another town far away.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Three Poems On Marriage

Thinking Of A Gift

I'll get you something for your bed?

How about a quilted coverlet?
Your bath? Some monochrome towels perhaps?

Or your beyond? The spiritual domain!
A picture for your wall, a flower vase?

I'm also told that both a crate and barrel
Are on your list -- I checked, they're out of both.

This prospect of your impending nuptials
Gives me some horripilating bump chills!

Yipes! A wedding! Something I'll never do again.
Let's see? You already have a cake plate, right?

What? Of course, you would. You'd prefer cash.
Just let me look in my Greek Uncle's stash.

Things I Need

Room to breathe
And time to read
You bequeath
These things I need
As you're leaving me

More things I need
You leave to me
Such as extra sleep
And thoughts running swift
As clouds of kelp
In the darkening deep

I've the place to myself
Like a castle keep
-- But how can you leave?
That is so rude
I have just had
A Viagra script renewed

Loretta Agonistes
home truths from a small town

In the Press-Republican, a headline,
"Agoney: Fifty Years," tells a story.
Below it a photo, "Gene and Loretta Agoney"
Says the caption. It drives the story home.

Married to Old Agoney for fifty years,
Loretta, at about 70, appears wearied a bit
By the long line of Agoneys flesh is heir to.
They are given local habitations and first names:

"Raymond and Helen Agoney of Peru,
Billy and Paula Agoney of Keeseville,
Jimmy and Tracy Agoney of Keeseville, and
David and Amy Agoney of Beekmantown."
(Plus Penny Agoney, who went off with that Burl fellow.)
And these have produced compound Agoneys!

The copy editor has spared us further Agoneys.
"Their ten grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren"
Are not separately listed. Whew, that was close!

They were married in 1955.
I can picture Loretta then, just out of a movie,
A bio-pic about Michelangelo on the marquee.

She says, "Too many Agoneys! Ecstasies? Too few."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Backwards ran sentences
In your new poem --
Did Odysseus tread backwards
On his long marches home?

Well, yes, he got diverted
(Ahem) by witchy, wily Circe.
Yet then he strode forth manfully
To get home to Penelope.

She, hearth to his heart, still prized him;
He, aged, -- one hardly recognized him! --
Still had command of his warrior's bow.

Haunted like conches by seduction's songs,
His distracted ears reverbed the sirens.
But his arrow split the targe straight through.

Yes, he went straight forward when he rode
His chariot up dusty Ithaca Road;
He only went backwards when he hoed.

(Fine, he also went backwards when he ... r-o-w-e-d.)

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