Category Archives: Poems

Control Issues

In today’s hyperactive social media environment, it does not take long for good reputations to get ruined by a bit of breathless over-reaction to common problems.

A quick tweet, a tossed-off Facebook post, a carelessly shared You Tube video, or a thoughtless headline might be all it takes to permanently shame a good citizen.

Or a starlet.

Or a spacecraft.

Yesterday’s New York Times headline, “Russian Space Station Cargo Ship Is Said to Be Out of Control“, smacks of the same type of discriminatory treatment given to a string of young, boisterous female celebrities, all of whom were declared, at one time, officially O.O.C.

Trail Baboon Sing-song poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler insisted that I give him a moment to come to the defense of the poor, maligned Progress 59 capsule with a few lines of soon-to-be-forgotten verse.


One cannot be a star today without a robust hide.
And for anyone who reaches high, expect a rocky ride.
But as long as I’ve got pitch and yaw, a cargo, and a goal.
It’s unfair to try to shame me with that trope – “out of control.”

While it’s true I’m not mature, (this is the first time I have flown)
I’m more stable and more focused than that wingnut, Lindsay Lohan.
I admit our mission so far hasn’t made the throngs admire us,
But I’m not as O.O.C. as that sad train wreck, Miley Cyrus.

I may tumble out of orbit very soon, it now appears.
But I won’t completely self-destruct like gaudy Britney Spears.
So I don’t feel like a failure, though I’m sinking by degrees.
I will simply resupply a patch of Earth that lacks debris.

What’s the worst thing that’s been said about you?

Rough Landing Haiku

Space travel fans and recyclers are full of admiration for the people at Space-X, who come closer with each attempt to doing something the throw-away generation of the ’60’s didn’t even consider. They’re trying to create a rocket booster that can carry a vehicle to orbit, and then land, vertically, the same way it took off.

To allow some room for error, they built a barge that can float out in the ocean, away from population centers. Smart, but problematic, as it creates a somewhat unsteady surface.

This last time they came quite close to making it work.

I love the slow yielding to gravity at the end, as it gradually becomes clear we are not going to remain vertical.

The fall takes about 7 seconds – just long enough to read three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables.

if there is no land
just a barge in the ocean
there is no landing

falling down to earth,
a job anything can do,
gets tricky at last

hold the platform still
and I will stick the dismount
at some other time

practice makes perfect
but first some big explosions
for entertainment

Space X says next time, they’ll try to do the landing where there is actually some land.

When has practice made perfect for you?

Forest Hospitality Crisis Deepens

Today we hear from Bart, a bear who found a smart phone in the woods.

H’lo, Bart here.

I live in the woods so I know all about the natural patterns.

Summer dies, the leaves fall, the snow flies, and the bears hunker down. Then the sun warms, the snow melts, the bears wake up and the people go a little bit nuts.

This is the time when all the annual warnings come out about securing things that smell tasty because the dreaded bears are coming out of hibernation and they’re hungry but there’s no food for them, so you’d better make sure there’s no charred chunks burned onto the grate of the gas grill.

Which is too bad, because I sure likes to do me some charred chunk gas grill grate grazing. My heart sinks when I climb up on a deck in the dead of night, carefully make my way to the cook top, and lift the lid only to see that someone has been busy with a wire brush and the 409.

And articles like this one are so alarmist – as if the worst thing that can happen is that a bear will lick the Weber or tip over your smelly old garbage. Let me tell you – having a bit of your trash strewn about is not the worst thing that can happen on a windy April morning.

What’s sadder is the way this paranoia makes you behave.

I’ve heard tell of “Minnesota Nice,” but I’ve sure never seen it. Especially not in Spring. Even though you make such a big deal of being so friendly and welcoming to the unfortunate victims of bad luck with poems like “The New Colossus,” which I read online and liked a lot:

“Give me your tired, your poor.
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I’m guessing Emma Lazarus would turn over in her grave if she saw the way you’ve decided to treat your hungry, huddled bears. As far as I’m concerned, this is what I hear when I try to re-enter society every April.

I’ve seen that bear before.
His famished stomach churning to eat free.
Your wretched refuse is his grocery store!
Pizza, or maybe a toaster pastry?
Let the poor bastard have an apple core!

But who am I kidding? I know everything in the pantry is in lock-down. That’s why I snuck in and snitched a whole box of Twinkies from Ranger Station last summer when they were all distracted trying to get a stray deer out of the DNR gift shop.

Those things never go bad!

The Twinkies, I mean.  Deer are bad to the bone!

Your pal,

I’m impressed with Bart’s ability to quote from a poem that adorns the Statue of Liberty, but I am relatively certain he will not make it through the spring on a Twinkies-only diet.  I hope he finds something nourishing, and soon!

Where have you found inspirational words to live by?

A Long Trip Worth A Short Rhyme

We all know migratory birds accomplish amazing feats, but none are more incredible than this latest news about the Blackpoll Warbler.

That a fluffy bird “the size of a tennis ball” can make it from Massachusetts to Venezuela is inspiring – at least I hoped it would be for Trail Baboon’s Sing-Song Poet Laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler.

When I asked him to pen a few lines about exhaustion and depleted things, he was already at work on it, having received word via social media that there was a bird story in the news.

The songbird’s strength is in his throat,
the better for to sing with.
He’s not designed to swim or float.
It’s music he takes wing with.

His scrawny stubs flap extra fast
when he flies o’er the ocean.
We don’t expect his trip to last
with such a frantic motion.

For three long days he pushes south.
Until the trip’s completed.
At last a sound escapes his beak.
“R my arms tired,” he tweeted.

What wears you out?  

Lake Mistake

Congressman Beechly’s post yesterday about lake ice reminded me that even our biggest lakes freeze over.

Lake Superior became quite icy this year but is quickly thawing out. All the Great Lakes get icy, though Lake Michigan seems to stay warmer. Perhaps Chicago is so dynamic it has an effect like one of those heaters you put in the bottom of a birdbath. Or maybe the still-weighted-down bodies of all the 1920’s gangsters tossed in the lake emit enough bad karma to keep the water moving.

Of course even these massive bodies of water have personalities. For some reason, looking at a map of our marvelous Great Lakes reminded me of the time more than a decade ago when then-U.S. Senator Norm Coleman appeared to get two of them mixed up, which led to two things public officials and their constituents hate in equal measure – criticism and poetry.

“We have Duluth, which is located on Lake Erie, which is the entryway, the gateway to the Great Lakes …” Senator Norm Coleman, during a debate about the National Intelligence Reform Bill, US Senate, September 28, 2004

Lakes of Confusion

A person could, if he were weary
Confuse Superior and Erie
For both are wet and natural.
Their first names are identical!

They both are colored blue on maps.
They both have buoys. Both have traps
for mollusks, fish, and water thingies.
They’re full of waves and boats and dinghies

Politically you can’t divide ‘em.
Both have swing states right beside ‘em.
Round the edge are geese and ducks
And on the northern shore – Canucks!

Except for size and depth and clarity;
History, geography (a minor disparity)
Color, flavor, smell and name
It’s fair to say they are the same.

It’s something of a minor art
To tell these Greatest lakes apart.
So here’s a hint from one who’s tried it.
One has the other’s name inside it.

Superior is clearly better.
Deeper, wider, has more letters.
If you mix them in your stupor,
Take Eri out, it still is Supor.

Tell us about your favorite lake. 

Burn After Reading

Once I heard that some state officials in Florida have been cautioned against using the words “climate” and “change” right next to each other” in official documents, I felt inspired.

Not by the restriction, but by the way it appears to have been delivered.

Such a written rule would be subject to ridicule of course. But it appears this bit of language and thought control (if it exists), is being carried out as a matter of verbal-only policy making.

This is genius, and also a throwback.

For eons human beings have remembered complex stories and concepts through an oral tradition and the construction of elaborate rhymes. I was intrigued. How could you make it quick and memorable but also put it in a configuration that would enable you to  distribute the “rules” uniformly but without a trace?

I summoned Trail Babboon’s poet laureate, Schuyler Tyler Wyler, and instructed him to create a few lines of verse that would be capable of communicating such a language prohibition to legions of bureaucrats, paper-trail free.

I told him:

  • Verse one must ban the term “climate change”
  • Verse two must outlaw “global warming”
  • Verse three has to prohibit “greenhouse gasses”
  • The fourth verse must end with the word “irony”.

S.T.W. was unimpressed with the subject matter, but for ten dollars he got to work and was back within the hour:

It’s wrong to talk of “Climate Change”.
That phrase is now verboten.
These words, in tandem, don’t arrange.
It upsets them what’s votin’.

And “Global Warming” is taboo.
Because we do not buy it.
For thinking only, you’re free to.
But as for speaking? Quiet!

And likewise,”greenhouse gas” must pass
into the realm unspoken.
This rule must stay invisible
like air on which you’re chokin’.

These verses are not policy.
They’re a device, mnemonic,
to stop the floods. Y’all’ll see.
Effective and ironic!

What words or phrases would you like to ban?

A Little Bend in the Light

I was trying to get my mind around the news that astronomers have observed multiple images of a supernova exploding by simply looking in the right place and understanding the strange effects of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, when the phone rang.

It was Trail Baboon poet laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler calling to beg for a commission.

Things have been a bit tough in the poetry game of late, and what with large companies like General Mills and Target retrenching, the slogan and tagline market has dried up almost completely.

“Give me something complex to boil down into a few lines of verse,” he said. “I have to keep my toolkit sharp in case the discount clothing and packaged food industries bounce back and there’s a sudden need for fresh jingles.”

Of course I gave him the only thing I had – that a star exploding on the other side of the universe nine billion years ago has appeared in our sky at least four times, and it all makes perfect sense. I told him I would buy him a cup of coffee next Wednesday if he could make it rhyme.

Here’s his reply:

To see a Supernova pop
is not so hard to do.
Just float some denser galaxies
between the star and you.

Then get it properly aligned
Nine billion years ago,
to let dark matter intervene
so you can watch it blow.

The light from the explosion
has to go around each side.
So when you view the fireworks
you see it multiplied!

The images arrive distinct
and separate as they please.
A single Supernova that can say
cheese cheese cheese cheese.

What spectacle would you watch over and over and over and over?