Upping the Ante for Covid*

Herd immunity's newsy now,
But herd immunity facing covid,
Conjures cows...lazy and lowing
And basking in pastures.
Covid needs a hardier immunity,
An immunity with menace...
Perhaps, horde immunity...
A rampaging, pillaging horde of immunity.
Were I covid, I'd be in fear
Far more from a horde
Than I'd be from a herd.

*A pandemic...for readers years after this, when covid's forgotten.

Look Down, Look Down…the Signs Are There

Crossing London streets,
We came paper-thin close
To cars bearing down...
Unexpectedly from the right...
And not, as accustomed,
From the left.
And what's less sure
Than the forbearance of cabbies,
Slowed in thick traffic
And having to use good sense,
To deal with look-the-wrong-way tourists.
    With pedestrian harm, though, front of mind    
    The civilized Burghers of London
    Had "Look Right" signs
    Painted on crosswalks,
    To remind us Yanks
    Just where we were.

A Perfect Getaway…Perhaps

In a shiver of fear, a possum lies as doggo as Juliet,
Exuding the sour reek of gastric distress.
Eventually, though, sensing less danger,
It banks the smell and scurries off. 
A chameleon, magical as Rembrandt, paints itself
To blend into whatever it's next to.  
A squid, like a pierced cartridge of CO2
Whooshes away, under the cover of inky clouds.
And humans, quite sure they're secure, 
Garrisoned behind safe room walls,
Smugly think they've blunted a bloodhound's senses
And feel somehow safe.
    But the possum, feigning death too often,
    May not be as careful this time, as last.
    Or maybe a squid's ink thins a bit,
    Too flimsy a veil now to cover escape.
    Or a chameleon's palate of camo colors
    May lack some hues for blending well.
    And surely a hound, that bays at our walls,
    Will alert the one who holds his leash
    That someone's in there.
It's better to hope a more toothsome prey
Will distract our pursuers.

Gifting the Graduate

The go-to gift for the 1950's college grad
Was a briefcase (cowhide or calfskin)
With monogrammed initials
To distinguish one from another,
And, perhaps, a Parker Pen, a pad of paper
And a copy of Time...
Ready to start an office life.
It was the time of galoshes and rubbers,
Of hats with brims
And rain covers for them with elastic edges,
Which are as outdated now as razored scalps are in.
And the briefcase, too, has morphed
Into a casual, cloth backpack
With pockets for a laptop,
A water bottle, energy bars and trail mix,
But no room for a newspaper,
Since newspapers are now paperless on laptops,
Along with every shard of fiction or fact
That has ever been found on planet Earth,
As well as movies and plays and concerts.
But, pandemically, we might become Generation Remote,
The generation of vast, empty auditoria...
The brontosauruses of the 2020s...
As defunct as UNIVAC and ashtrays,
Since Zoom brings us, addictively, to meetings
And cable streams vast riches of cultural activities
Without leaving home.

The Ballad of Lab-Made Meat

Plant-based meat...
Is near meat,
Mock meat,
Something so close to meat
That it might be confused with meat.
But should we call this no-meat mix,
Even if it looks like meat,
And bleeds like meat,
And spatters like meat
And tastes like meat?
So, if only real meat needs
The gruesome tools of the abatoire,
It alone should be known as meat.
And the stuff that's blended
In huge stainless steel lab vats
Well it's not meat.
And the real meat men of the fatted calf
Don't care if you call it caviar,
As long as you don't call it meat.

The Dark Yips of Captain Louise

Captain Renfro Louise
Kept the black dog* off his shoulder,
During the gloom of cold-shortened days
With a few pegs of afternoon grog
At the Moaning Dove Tavern...
Wet and slick and dully lit
Like the midnight barracks 
Of sotted marines...
The last place one should be, 
When fighting the dark yips.
But Cap'n Ren had faith
That the next peg, always the next one,
Would put a stake
Through the heart of the black dog...
A pursuit of notable persistence,
And predictable failure,
But one he swore to keep at,
Until nirvana's light shown
At the end of the tunnel.

*Samuel Johnson, and later, Winston Churchill were credited 
 with naming their depressions, "the black dog."

The First Pick Got an Ego Boost, The Last Pick Got a Groan

We selected, random teams
For after-school baseball games.
Trying to be moral as a courtroom judge,
We made certain all, who came to play,  
Would play.
One captain chose 
And then the other...
The best, of course, were taken first,
The least were last,
Which always was how teams were picked...
Though not, perhaps most sensitive,
It was the only way we knew.
And teams, it turned out, balanced well.
Of course, the one who was picked last, 
He batted last,
Because he was the surest out
And played right field,
The place where fewest balls were hit.
And we, unseemly, 
Groaned aloud, when he struck out,
Or dropped a fly...
A blatant hint, we'd all confess,
That he should, after school, play chess.

A Hole in the Net and the Fish Was Free

A farmed salmon
Slipped through a hole in the farm's net
And roamed free for a while...
But lost its nerve and looked for the hole 
To go back to the farm.
It was just about the time for breakfast...
Some tasteless flakes scattered on the water.
Living on the farm was mostly humdrum, 
Swimming aimlessly, waiting for a feeding...  
Three times a day... 
Always the same flakes, floating on the water.
But, at least, there was no brutal swim upstream 
To spawn,
Through a gauntlet of famished bears,
Clawing at the water.
    I'm telling you, that is scary.
Plus the farm's water is a tad warmer.
So exchanging bears and cold water
For guaranteed food and warmer water...
Well, it's an easy call.

From Rosencranz-Mollycoddle to Pelican, Gratefully

Ottofranz Pelican, 
Born Ottofranz Rosencranz-Mollycoddle
Spent agitated hours coming to terms
With his original surname.
His progenitors...Gustav Rosencranz
And Trudy Mollycoddle...
Egalitarian idealists...
Hyphenated their surnames,
Aware they'd likely need a more modern name,
But lacked the time to whittle the world's names 
To a singular, distinctive one,
Made harder still, since Mountbattan, 
Churchill and Dos Passos were already taken.
They could, of course, 
Have combined their names into one, 
But neither Rosencoddle nor Mollycranz
Were steps in the right direction.
Ottofranz, meanwhile would have accepted Lipschitz,
Instead of having to endure another minute
As Ottofranz Rosencranz-Mollycoddle.
But fate intervened on a vacation in the Keys,
When a pelican landed on their deck
With a curious grin and a flounder in its beak.
And they knew in a flash,
They'd change their last name to Pelican.

Things as Hot as Grandma’s Soup

My grandmother's soup,
Served near a boil,
Had to be blown on, 
To let the spoon safely
Get close to my mouth.
Like my car's front seat,
Leather, sitting in the sun,
Absorbed so much heat
That I, in a Speedo,
Could not, if not, 
On a towel, sit down.
And blistering sand,
Midday at the beach, 
I, desperate, hot-footed it 
Down to the water.
    But counter-intuitive,
    Aluminum foil, 
    Covering baked chicken,
    In a Pyrex dish
    Just out of the oven
    We think must be hot...
    So hot you can't touch it...
    But somehow it's not.
    I know that it's true, 
    But I light-touch it anyway,
    Just to make sure.