Category Archives: Poems

Ice Virus Soup

A French research team plans to wake up an ancient virus to study its genetic structure.

This comes as a huge surprise to me.  I’m a cable-connected-American, so the only French people I ever see are on the Food Channel, fighting over condiments.

I had no idea they could be scientists too!

But why would such a person try to revive a virus embedded in a cake of ice?

Only one reason I can think of – glacial ice is a surprise ingredient, thrown in at the last minute to heighten the souffle’ challenge! Leave it to the crafty French to know the secret – bring out the hidden viral flavors and this frosty addition to an ordinary recipe will be a memory-maker.

And (maybe) a killer!

I commissioned Trail Baboon poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler to respond to this story with a few lines of simplistic verse, and although he thought his inept rhymes might sicken a few unsuspecting readers, he did it anyway – because there was money involved.


One wonders – What forgotten woes
reside inside what once was froze?
Old viruses, encased in ices!
Are they strong, like southern spices?

Let’s research it! Here’s the deal –
I will dump some on your meal
and then take notes as you complain
about the fever in your brain!

Science is a lot like cooking.
Tasting, testing, always looking
for the flavor of the day.
inside a pathogen souffle!

That’s the foodie’s fondest wish
uncover some forgotten dish
of which we all are unaware
and dress it up as modern fare –

Like Hepatitis Cassoulet
and Dengue Fever au Flambe’
Chicken in a Herpes Glaze
with fresh Ebola Bouillabaisse.

Mononucleosis Stew
and Influenza Dip au jus,
Spicy Cowpox over rice.
with Meningitis Torte sounds nice.

Steaming viral soup selections.
Tasty, trendy mass infections
locked in ice. Forgotten. Dated.
Soon you’ll see them nicely plated!

What food makes you sick?

Why I Don’t Eat The Coleslaw

Header image by Amanda Wood via Flickr

I have been thinking about and reading lately the voluminous works of Ogden Nash, a silly poet who was taken seriously. How he managed to become widely known by working in the disrespected field of light verse is still perplexing. Nash died in 1971. There has been no one like him since.

You hardly hear about Nash today. People have a way of vanishing. Even the most accomplished artists and statesmen can quickly become inconsequential, postmortem.

But during the many hours I’ve spent standing in the supermarket checkout line, one thing I’ve learned that you can stay relevant if you manage to perish under a cloud of suspicion.  If you can’t do that, at least make your exit in some unconventional and potentially memorable way.

It turns out Nash died after eating “improperly prepared” coleslaw, although few details about the incident are available online. The official cause was said to be Crohn’s Disease, aggravated by side dish.

Here is where we might identify some fame-extending mysterious circumstances. How could Nash, a well-known hypochondriac, so casually imbibe a lethal helping of such an unhelpful multi-layered vegetable?   Was he force-fed into oblivion?  Or was it intentional?

In pursuit of the truth,  the public demands a dogged persistence.
But all it will get right now is doggerel.

Did Ogden Nash know?

Did Ogden Nash, with his last breath,
decide to die a funny death?
His final meal – some stringy gabbage
hid the reaper ‘mongst the cabbage.
Did fate, ironic, choose to slay him
with this side of gastro-mayhem?
Or did Nash select this gaffe
to seal his doom with one last laugh?
One last punchline – Woe betide
all those who chews coleslawicide.

Describe the circumstances of your ideal, intriguing death.

Century House

Today’s guest post comes from Verily Sherrilee

My house is 100 years old this year. When I purchased it, it was a ways off from the big 1-0-0 and I didn’t think too much about the age, but now that we’re at the century mark, it occurs to me that this is a remarkable number. If the house were a person, a birthday card from Obama would be showing up this year.

I never learned any house-handy maintenance tricks when I was growing up. My mother was a great gardener and both my parents were terrific at remodeling rooms, steaming off wall paper and hanging new. But other than that, neither of them was all that handy. Of course we moved around A LOT when I was growing up so may we weren’t in a house long enough for anything to go wrong.


So I’ve had to learn my own maintenance skills. Luckily I live near a GREAT hardware store with great staff who are very patient with my questions; they didn’t even laugh when it took me FOUR trips one weekend to finally finish the great woodwork mitering project before Baby came. These days the internet helps as well; I was able to figure out how to change the insides of my kitchen faucet by looking it up on YouTube! Among other things over the years I’ve 100House2replaced sash windows, changed out electrical switches, redone the baseboard woodwork, cemented a gap between the house and steps and, of course, put in many new toilet flush valves and flappers. It’s always something around an old house.

So this poem really resonated with me when I ran across it.


The morning brought such a lashing rain

I decided I might as well stay inside

And tackle those jobs that had multiplied

Like an old man’s minor aches and pains.

I found a screw for the strikerplate,

Tightened the handle on the bathroom door,

Cleared the drain in the basement floor,

And straightened the hinge for the backyard gate.

Each task had been a nagging distraction,

An itch in the mind, a dangling thread;

Knocking a tiny brass brad on the head,

I felt an insane sense of satisfaction.

Then I heard a great crash in the yard.

The maple had fallen and smashed our car.

“Handyman” by Barton Sutter from Farewell to the Starlight in Whiskey. © BOA Editions, 2004.

Do you have a maintenance skill you’re proud of?

Zero to Sixty

Back when I was 12 years old I spent an unusual amount of time reading about cars that I was too young to drive.    At the end of every article in Motor Trend, there was a list of specifications that gave the raw statistics regarding the wheelbase, the overall length, the width, the curb weight and the acceleration.

How long did it take the 1967 Mercury Cougar to go from 0 to 60?  I don’t remember, because I didn’t care.

Speed was the least important detail to me – a kid who loved cars as design objects more than conveyances.  I was much more interested in the roofline, what the grill looked like and the style of the door handles  than with anything that had to do with engines.

Drag racing made no sense to me – how could you properly admire the shape of an automobile when you couldn’t see it through a cloud of burning rubber?

I think it’s fair to say I’ve never had much appreciation for the whiplash takeoff no matter how it happens.  Which is why I can’t explain  my admiration for this video from SpaceX – a crewman’s-point-of-view look at the latest test of a mission abort system that jettisons the capsule (astronauts included) at well over three hundred miles per hour, going from zero to 100 in a few short seconds.

This is exactly how I’d like to experience liftoff – by not being there. Odd that the very risk of sitting on top of a rocket is mitigated by sitting on top of even more rockets that are designed to rush you away from the first set of rockets if necessary.

And while the powerful liftoff happens predictably at zero, the neck-snapping launch abort comes out of sequence – when you’re, by definition, not quite ready.

At, say, two.

15, 14, 13, 12
into the mystery we’ll delve
14, 13, 12, 11
rockets blasting into heaven
13, 12, 11, 10
computers count and tell us when
12, 11, 10, 9
every nuance must align
11, 10, 9, 8
could abort, it’s not too late
10, 9, 8, 7
way back when, it was eleven
9, 8, 7,6
if one valve misfires or sticks
8, 7, 6, 5
we may not get out alive
7, 6, 5, 4
waiting for the engine’s roar
6, 5, 4, 3
gonna pull some extra g
5, 4, 3, 2
4, 3, 2, 1
tower cleared and launch undone.
3, 2, 1, 0.
welcome back, already, hero.

When have you changed plans at the last minute?

Similar Simians Self-Select

Here’s how influential baboons can be – they have digital natives questioning the value of social media.

A recent study of baboon behavior found that baboons like to hang out with their own personality types.  Those identified as bold tended to hang out with like-minded baboons, while the meek ones prefer the company of their own sort.

As a result,  groups remain socially isolated and new information tends to stay within the group that discovered it.

Sound familiar?

No, not to me either.  No one in my circle cares much for animal studies.  Even if the creatures aren’t harmed, we tend to agree that they have a right to privacy.

But Trail Baboon poet laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler, who, frankly, is not one of us, found the report inspiring.  So he penned the following few lines of deathless verse:

Those bold baboons are reckless beasts
They’re wild and fast and free.
So when I want to socialize,
they’re not my cup of tea.

I much prefer the timid ones.
Baboons who are demure.
If thoughtful and considerate,
I’ll hang with them for sure.

And when we convene a confab
to trade news and give reports,
we will screen for type and temperament
to weed out the wrong sorts.

So that when we all are gathered
we’ll stay focused, we’ll be tame.
All our thoughts and inspirations
will be pretty much the same.

Where do you get new ideas?

Pipeline Poem Worsens Word Spill

Header image by Robin Drayton

The news is full of  multiple pipeline projects as protesters try to have their say and slow moving regulatory processes grind on.

Constructing such things is a costly marathon for proponents and opposing them takes time, organization and stamina. Casual observers are sometimes at a loss to know which side should prevail.

The vast number of words generated in any major pipeline fight gush from multiple sources and flood the terrain with claims and counter-claims.

To help sort it out, I commissioned a relevant poetical work from Trail Baboon’s Poet Laureate, Schuyler Tyler Wyler, a well-known literary thief.

At first, STW refused the commission because, he said, “Nothing original can come from it” and “These pipeline battles always end the same way.”

But of course nothing original ever comes from a Schuyler Tyler Wyler poem.

After I showed him the money that could quickly be made, STW said (true to form) that he would do it if he could be allowed to dig another well known poem out of the deepest reaches of our shared language reserves, refine it to remove all the art, beauty and originality, and then ship it directly to me as quickly as possible with his own brand attached for immediate payment.

Because I was desperate and out of time to come up with a post for today, I agreed, even though I knew the result could be a horrible explosion or simply a foul, long-lasting mess.

Sorry, once again, Robert Frost.

Two pipelines converged in my neighborhood,
And sorry I could not protest both
and be one activist, long I stood
Bemoaning one as much as I could
For contents which I use, and loathe.

Then hating the other to be fair.
For though I’d use it just the same
a spill from it would sew despair,
and consequently foul the air
while no one would accept the blame.

Such strong objections did I raise
to both, that from my dual attack
each paused in the approval phase
and judges issued legal stays
while regulators walked them back.

But only for a moment, though
then did it all just recommence.
A lawyer’s herd did overthrow
my arguments, with piles of dough.
And that has made all the difference.

What have you spilled?

Less Air Apparent

Header photo by Frankileon from Flickr

I asked Trail Baboon poet laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler to craft an ode to sports figures who, more probably than not, cheat.

Of course he wanted to know who I was talking about.

“No one in particular,” I said.  “But everyone, sort of.”

Naturally he wanted to know what sort of poem he should write, which was a funny question because STW only writes one kind of poem.

“Just give me some immortal lines that deal with taking advantage of a situation and lying about it afterwards, ” I told him.  “If it means you have to steal someone else’s poem,  just don’t tell me about it.”

Within the hour, he had produced this:

If you can grip footballs when all about you
With jealous stares are criticizing you.
If you commit such fouls that tall men doubt you,
And call your claims of innocence, “Untrue”;
If you’re a pitcher who is fond of scuffing
Or muscled batter – super steroid size.
Or a striker –  injured?  No, but bluffing!
Who fakes so well he even cries:

If you can bet on games and not have fans desert you,
Or ride the Alps while chemically enhanced,
And still the masses want to wear a shirt you
signed and wore while pedaling through France.
If scandals sprout around you, and get covered,
just pray your own malfeasance never shows.
There is a chance your sins won’t be discovered.
But – if it is – Hey, welcome to … the pros!

I told STW this was such a blatant ripoff of Rudyard Kipling it was an embarrassment and even I couldn’t look the other way. “What is more”, I said, “you didn’t even steal the whole thing. If this lousy poem was a football, it would be deflated by about half.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “I’m an artist. Where’s my money?”

How far should rules be allowed to bend?