Rabbi Hogg and Cantor Hamm

In the annals of unlikely pairings
Were Bennett Hogg and Joshua Hamm,
The former, a tailor's son with religious ennui,
But also terrifying visions
Of needles and bobbins,
Who eventually found spiritual solace
And then priestly ordination, as a rabbi.
And the latter, who went from lead singer
For Millennium Trayf, a rock band,
Who also dragged himself 
To the spiritual mountaintop,
Earning his cantorial chops with a masters
In traditional renditions of familiar
Ashkenazic melodies.
Both, strangers to one another,
Were thrown together in a lottery
Known as First Pulpit,
Making sure that all synagogues,
No matter how remote,
Were clerically rostered...in this case
The Stu Valley Hebrew Center,
Ministering to the needs of a small
Midwestern kosher meat packing town.

Parking Meters at the Voting Booth





Maxwell Loomy asked for more time
In the voting booth...
Time to settle his thoughts about the nominees...
To make sure he'd pick the perfect one.
    Let's move it,
Said someone behind him.
    It can't be a mystery,
    The campaign's been going for a year and a half.
    I know these people better than my own family...
    And I'm gettin' hungry.
Another said he was late for dialysis.
Another had leg cramps.
Another had to pick up his daughter
And said he'd be happy to pick one out for him.
    If this was McDonald's,
He said roughly,
    They'd have thrown you out by now.
    Well,
Said Loomy still muddled,
    You'll never find me at McDonald's.

Don’t Escalate the Aggravation





Aggravation feeds on itself...
Then worsens to acrimony,
And works itself up to vendetta,
At which point,
I'd wish you a splash of soap in the eye,
Or a stubbed toe in the dark,
Or brain freeze from frozen drinks,
Or leg cramps
(and no one around to massage them),
Or curdled milk that clumps in your coffee,
And pours as lumpy white sludge on your corn flakes...
Things greatly unpleasant,
But of no lasting harm.
Truth is,
It pains me to get worked up to vendetta,
So let's leave it at aggravation
And we'll still be friends.

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,
    Meat,
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.