A Dozens Poem

This post originally appeared on December 12, 2012.

We are in a pivotal time for humankind – the era of paranoid obsession over the numbers that appear on our calendar.

Oh, wait a minute. That’s every era.

So far, the way the numbers roll up in the date line on your checks has had nothing to do with the fate of the planet or the civilization, but we can’t help but notice when the lineup appears portentous. In nine days the frenzy will peak with the arrival of the utterly meaningless 12-21-12.

I find today more interesting anyway – more orderly and beautiful somehow.

The challenge for 12-12-12 is to write a twelve line poem with twelve syllables in each line. And you get 12 bonus points if it rhymes!

There’s nothing to keep you from telling your cousins.
The month, year and day for today are all dozens.
But why would you make it a point to be geeky?
They already think that you’re thoroughly freaky.

These digits don’t indicate anything scary.
You shouldn’t be frightened, perplexed or be wary.
Each day is a day that arrives unencumbered.
It’s people that name them and make them all numbered.

While the ones and the twos might seem key to our plot
What our calendar calls today signifies squat.
When setting the time of our big closing rally
The mind of the cosmos won’t look to our tally.

Not feeling poetical? Tell us how (or if) you’ll observe Dozens Day!

Powerball Prayers

Every so often, a huge lottery jackpot comes along and millions decide to disregard math for a little private entertainment.  What would I do with 100 million, 500 million, or a billion dollars?

A strong argument can be made that winning a huge lottery jackpot is much more damaging than not winning one.

And if that’s true, then the losers are the winners and the big winners will be rewarded with the complete and total destruction of their once-happy lives.

There are numerous examples of the sort of mayhem the sudden addition of mega millions can bring to an ordinary family. We already know gambling can become addictive and prolonged losing ruins good people. It appears winning can, too.

And yet folks continue to buy tickets, hoping that they will walk away with the most outrageous possible prize. Perhaps for those compelled to play, a short, expectation adjusting prayer is in order.

Now I buy me one more chance
I pray these numbers make me dance
Though not so much I play the fool
But just enough to keep me cool

With modest winnings I can spend
On things I won’t need to defend
Too small to get me on the news
But just enough for food and shoes

and something special for my spouse
and maybe to fix up the house.
I’ll dream of mega millions, Lord,
Though that’s more than I can afford.

But I question the tactic of using prayer to ask God to reward you with helpful, timely interventions. One look at a day’s worth of woe as it unfolds in the news is enough to convince a sober observer that God doesn’t feel a particular sense of urgency about rescuing good people from calamities.

Besides, if there was a divine desire to make you rich, would God need to use the Lottery to do it? I don’t think so – not as long as we have Las Vegas and Wall Street and You Tube.

So with all that in mind, I went ahead and bought my single ticket for Wednesday’s Powerball while muttering this quiet prayer.

Now I play the Powerball,
I pray my numbers come up, all.
And if I become rich today,
I pray I won’t throw it away.

By partying until the dawn.
By buying yachts for hangers-on.
By funding every worthless scheme
presented as a noble dream.

By hanging out in seedy bars.
By buying worthless classic cars.
By sending distant kin abroad.
Investing in a mammoth fraud.

By launching my own space balloon.
By subsidizing Trail Baboon.
By backing bets my buddies cast
On horses that will finish last.

I pray, in short, for money smarts,
to add to all my other arts.
The wisdom and the sense to see
I shouldn’t play the lottery.

How to squander a fortune? Let us count the ways.

John Barleycorn Must DNA

Barley made the news in 2012 when a cadre of international researchers managed to sequence the genome for barley, said to be “one of the world’s most important and genetically complex cereal crops“. Results were published in the journal Nature. Apparently this work could lead to higher barley yields, better resistance to pests, and enhanced nutritional value. It may also help barley adapt to the stresses of climate change.

You know what that means – we can trash the environment and still have beer!

Congratulations to the researchers. A round for all my genome sequencing friends! It made me think of a great old song about barley and its role in the beer and whiskey making process – John Barleycorn Must Die!

And then, after two strong beers,  I thought of how I might take that great old song and ruin it forever.


The scientists have done their best
employing all their means
They found out, using every test,
John Barleycorn has genes!

They chopped him up so very small
and put him on display.
Tore him apart to see it all
and mapped his DNA.

If you were him by now you’d know
the sum of all your parts.
What makes you wilt. What helps you grow.
The compounds in your farts.

The sequence tells us who he is,
of what he is composed.
His elements, his spark, his fizz.
John Barleycorn, exposed.


Lottie Dod’s Ditty

I can’t claim to be much of a sports fan.

But I do enjoy reading about interesting personalities, and participating in an organized sport is one way to express your uniqueness. Maybe it’s the pressure of competition that brings interesting qualities to the fore. And for some reason, the sporting world attracts individuals with remarkable names.

This came up one September when I noticed that a single date marked the birth of some sports figures from the past who had outstanding names –

All of Lottie Dod’s wins at Wimbledon came against the same player – the imposingly named Blanche Bingley Hillyard.

As an amateur sing-song poet and shameless creator of too many stupid little rhymes, I find this pair irresistible. And of course one of them has a perfect name for this justifiably unappreciated form.

Blanche Bingley Hillyard

Some sports can hinge on state of mind,
like tennis, golf and billiards,
Opponents can get in your head.
ie: Blanche Bingley Hillyard’s.

Though BBH was quite a champ,
(they will not soon forget her),
Each time they played at Wimbledon
Another girl was better.



The focus and the discipline
that Blanche brought to the game
was poised and stately, and it is
reflected in her name.

Lottie Dod

So it’s not fair that winning was
(if tennis has a God)
A major task for BBH.
And fun for Lottie Dod.

For Lottie didn’t practice
or prepare in any way.
She danced around the tennis court
and sang her name all day.

Lottie Dod, Lottie Dod,
Dotty Lottie Dod
Doodly Doodly Doodly dee
Lah dee Lottie Dod.


Orange Marmalade Monkey Poem

Trivia: When you Google “Orange Marmalade Monkey Poem”, my other website, Trail Baboon,  is the #1 thing that comes up.

Number one. Who knew?

I discovered this quite by accident, but it was delightful to come in first in a competition I didn’t enter,  and in a category that I never would have expected to win.

All credit goes to one of Trail Baboon’s faithful contributors, Clyde in Mankato, who wrote a hilarious bit of verse about orange marmalade getting the upper hand and hitting his computer keyboard. The monkey part? That must be Google’s doing, factoring in Baboons from the blog title.

Being first in anything takes work and perseverance.  One must use one’s balance and strength to stay on top of the Orange Marmalade Monkey Poem heap.  Thus it was required that an appropriately focused rhyme be created immediately.

As of this writing, nearly three years later, we have maintained that #1 O.M.M.P. status.

A funny little monkey
For his breakfast in the glade
Topped a toasted piece of raisin bread
With orange marmalade.

A travel weary zookeeper
Whose flight had been delayed
Was surprised to see a monkey
Making breakfast in the shade.

“Toast is not a food for monkeys,”
said the keeper. “I’m afraid
that a monkey can get sickened
overeating marmalade.”

So he put the primate in a box
And shipped him, postage paid,
To a zoo where he’d be properly
And frequently displayed.

But the monkey became ill
In all the cages where he stayed.
And though they gave him monkey medicine
He got no marmalade.

He ate nothing then, for weeks.
With matted hair and muzzle grayed
Children gathered at his window
Just to watch the monkey fade.

Then one day a little girl with whom
The monkey had once played
Accidentally dropped her raisin toast
With orange marmalade

When the monkey took a tangy bite
a turnabout was made
and he hopped and ran and pranced around
his hospital stockade.

Now the monkey’s an attraction
Past his cage, there’s a parade
He makes raisin toast for all his guests
With Orange Marmalade


A Poem for Groundhog’s Day

It occurred to me that Feburary 2nd would be a good day to look for poems about groundhogs, and thus I discovered Richard Eberhart, who was born in Austin, Minnesota in 1904.

I would like you to think I am a literate person and wise when it comes to poems, but the truth is I have read very few and know almost nothing about them. But I do like silly rhymes and absurd things.

So I was delighted to discover Eberhart, because he appears to be well regarded, yet he did not consider himself too fine an artist to write about poking a dead groundhog with a stick.

I liked the poem “The Groundhog“, especially at the beginning when the expired rodent is still fresh and Eberhart describes “the seething cauldron of his being.” But I was a little disappointed that the poem didn’t rhyme, and that he didn’t take advantage of all the comic opportunities that a dead groundhog has to offer. Intstead he turned somber and serious, bringing in Montaigne and St.Theresa. And he didn’t mention Groundhog’s Day. Not even once.

Right now, part of my day job demands that I take perfectly decent work by good journalists and twist their carefully arranged words into unrecognizable radio copy. If there is a legitimate and newsy reference to an event happening today, I insert it. This is called “aggregation.” At first I felt a little guilty about the practice, but now it has become an annoying habit. Unfortunately for Richard Eberhart, because it led me to steal his first two lines and then go off in a completely different and totally selfish direction.

In June, amid the golden fields,
I saw a groundhog lying dead.
His flanks were flat as last year’s yields.
And flattened, also, was his head.

Where once a lively creature sat,
a rotting carcass lay there, still.
In fields of wheat, he would be chaff.
In dumps at Punxsutawney, fill.

I thought, “herein a poem lies.”
The cloud of flies around him thick.
And there beneath the summer skies
I chose to poke him with a stick.

The muck and ooze that issued forth
did bubble, boil, and downward run.
The cloud of flies flew to the north
and angrily blocked out the sun.

A shadow dropped across the scene
And cast a silent, solemn pall.
The groundhog’s flanks were turning green
but this he noticed not at all.

“I’ll write a poem about death,”
I told myself, “that will not rhyme.”
“I’ll mention Rome and Greece and hair
and love and bones and sap and time.”

And somewhere in there with a wink
I’ll note the angles and obliques
of sunlight and the rodent’s stink
and winter lasting six more weeks.

Though that means nothing to our pet
who, all collapsed and in decay
is flat as any thing can get
and doesn’t think of Groundhog’s Day.

Clearly this silly rhyme is far from the sort of poem that Eberhart would actually write, and does nothing to honor him or his intent. It is, in fact, a travesty. Yet I couldn’t resist, and have no regrets.

Under what circumstances do you feel compelled, against your better judgment, to get your two cents in?

A Space Weather Sunnet

Aside from an unfortunate scarcity of a few minor items like jobs, money, and political civility, we enjoy a great abundance of just about everything else.

Just think of all the things that surround us in much larger numbers than we could ever need –

Medical Syndromes
Goldilocks Planets
Electronic Devices
Sports Stadiums
Coffee Shops
Things to Worry About

And on the “worries” front, there’s a fresh new ulcer maker to consider – an unsettling universal calamity, so to speak – Bad Space Weather.

Haven’t checked the Space Weather today? You thought the cold and icy slush close to ground was enough to temper your enthusiasm? There can be so much more!

One morning I heard this on the news:  “Today we’ll experience the effects of a massive solar storm with a tsunami wave of charged solar particles washing over the Earth at around 8 am central time, all the result of a Coronal Mass Ejection that happened on Sunday.”

Whats in a Coronal Mass Ejection? All sorts of bad, radioactive stuff that can amp up the northern lights but doesn’t make it down to our level, thanks to our planet’s natural defenses.

Which doesn’t mean we can’t go into a tizzy over it.   But in spite of the occasional alarms that go out, Space Weather just doesn’t seem as immediate as stuff that’s closer to the skin. If only the great poets would romanticize it, perhaps Space Weather would seem more real.

With sincere apologies to Shakespeare, and anyone who loves him:

Shall I compare thee to a solar flare?
Thou art more lovely and less violent
Solar winds may tilt Earth’s elastic air,
Gaudy northern lights, while bright, are silent:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion blotched;
And whilst he rises and too soon declines,
He cannot ever be directly watched.
But thy eternal visage may be seen
With all thy bling and fancy articles
By naked eyes alone, without sunscreen
or visors to deflect charged particles.
Looks that thrill direct or in reflections
Outshining Coronal Mass Ejections