Category Archives: Poems


Stand Up Guy

With yet another new research fragment drawing us toward the conclusion that sitting is a hazard, I urged Trail Baboon Poet Laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler to take up his pen to write an anti-sitting poem.

STW wrote back immediately to say that he was “offended.” As a Serious Poet, he does not produce doggerel on newsy topics for the purpose of entertainment. He argued that he finds nothing inspirational in sports medicine research, and besides, if the latest data is correct my request that he write a poem is essentially a demand that he shorten his life, since creating poetry is one of the sitting professions.

I told him to try writing standing up, but he answered with a firm declaration that such a thing is simply impossible. “It takes intense concentration and focus to create a work of genius.” He said “Having to remember to keep my balance will dull the edge of inspiration.”

STW noted that great poets, like Billy Collins and Charles Wright, have already written on the topic, and their work is unabashedly pro-sitting. How could he contradict people he respects and maintain his integrity?

I answered with an assurance that the audience for this blog is very close to zero, so his reputation will not suffer. And “a work of genius” is never required for a mere blog post. I suggested that if he felt stuck, he could give himself a head start by stealing the work of someone else, like the wooden-legged Welsh poet W.H. Davies.

Then I offered him $50 to drop the complaints and get me something within the hour. He thanked me and got to work.

A person can stay trim and fit,
As long as they can’t stand to sit.
So learn a lesson from the cows.
Take to your field in stately rows
to watch the world before you pass.
and never plop down on your grass.
Your buns will become firm and tight.
Your frame will thin, your face will light
With other benefits. Perchance -
much longer-lasting seats of pants.
And if you’re standing like a crop,
when death arrives, there’s room to drop.
But have them stand you up again,
for vertical internment‘s in.
Upon your narrow tombstone fit
these words: “He couldn’t stand to sit.”

What’s your favorite type of chair?

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Mashie, Niblick, Limerick

In an increasingly busy, hyper-productive, multi-tasking world, many of us are overwhelmed with undone work and yet are still blessed with ample time to examine and complain about the prioritizing skills of other people. I may have absolutely no idea what it takes to do your job, but I know sloughing off when I see it! And as Americans, it is our birthright to offer uninformed criticism of our leaders. That’s how we manage to get outrage over President Obama’s interest in golf.

Yes, he lives over the store and can never really disconnect from the job, but even so, whenever I hear that he is relaxing, I feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth. How can he be so lazy when time is precious and the world has so many urgent problems?

Plus, golf seems like an un-serious hobby for a grown man with big responsibilities. Golfers have been known to wear silly clothes and ride around in tiny cars, just like circus clowns. Several of their implements wear flouncy covers and some of the terms of the game (birdie, bogie, mulligan) sound childish. Even the names of some of the ancient tools of the trade (mashie, niblick, brassie, baffing spoon) seem comical.

It made me want to create some bad limericks about Presidents and golf, which, although they are clearly inferior to good limericks, took just as long to write.

Hours, literally.

Don’t tell me I’m not an expert on wasting time!

A Senator griping in Texas
said the president’s golfing effects us.
“If he’d stop chasing pars
He’d have time to start wars!”
Though how that would be better, perplexes.

When the president lines up a putt
tension strains his political gut.
He aims leftward, though slight,
but it breaks to the right,
every time, as if stuck in a rut.

There are critics who count all the swings
that the president hacks, chops and dings.
He plays more than we’d like
But far, far less than Ike
who still managed some serious things.

When the POTUS hits grass that is rougher,
F.B.I. agents won’t let him suffer.
Though it’s way overgrown
they will summon a drone
which can blast it out for the first duffer.

If the world watched you work, what would it criticize?


Trap Door

My imagination was captured the other day by this article about recent discoveries at an intriguing place in Wyoming called Natural Trap Cave.

The cave was first explored by paleontologists in the 1970’s, and then sealed up for thirty years.

The 2014 expedition has been making news for the variety of animal remains found in a well-preserved state at the bottom of this naturally formed pit. It’s 85 feet deep with a hidden opening perfectly positioned to receive unwitting prey in full flight from a pursuing animal, or scavengers too hungry to resist getting tragically close to the edge.

Since no one has been in the cave for several decades and the only way to get down to the bottom is to rappel (or fall) in, I immediately took Natural Trap Cave off my vacation spot list even though it would be a true wonder to behold.

But because art can transport us to places we will never go, I did commission Trail Baboon’s Sing-Song Poet Laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler to craft a rhyming masterpiece from the point of view of some prehistoric horse, pack rat or other careless mammal who tumbled into the abyss.

This is what he gave me:

Sprinting through the underbrush I hurtled at a run.
And by the time I saw the hole my plummet had begun.

A sudden transformation. Total darkness fell at noon.
My legs continued churning like a roadrunner cartoon.

I couldn’t gauge the distance. Eighty feet? Perhaps a mile?
No matter. At the end – I’m just a fossil on the pile.

I’ve been here undisturbed for 20,000 years (about).
To every new arrival, far too late, I say “Watch out!”

While I admire the brevity of this work (you can’t write an epic about falling 85 feet), I did challenge STW on his use of the roadrunner cartoon imagery. A short-faced bear (extinct 11,000 years ago) is just one of the animals found at the bottom of this pit who would have no familiarity with the Merrie Melodies oeuvre. The others include every single creature whose remains are down there.

Thus, I argued, this work violates the rule that says an artist must honor the boundaries of the fantasy world he creates. Obviously, the poem-writing skeleton of an extinct animal would never have had the chance to watch Saturday morning TV. Thus, the roadrunner reference makes no sense and should be removed.

STW responded in verse, as usual.

While I honor all opinions about every work of mine,
You’ve mistakenly put “artist” and “boundaries” in the same line.

You cannot know what I had in mind, exactly, when I wrote,
I control the contours of my world and you don’t get a vote.

When the animals looked upwards from their unexpected leap,
they had visions, as you would, if you were dying in a heap.

And what last hallucination would you see at your life’s close?
Some would opt for God or Yaweh. But for me, it’s Warner Bros.

If the TV was on in your hospital room at the very end, what would you want to watch?  


Tyrannasaurus Hex

A new scientific study suggests there was a parting of ways quite long ago dividing dinosaurs that were able to change quickly from those that were set in their ways.

The difference is this – the prehistoric behemoths who started shrinking rapidly eventually morphed into birds.

When a meteor struck Earth and changed the climate, the “bigs” were thrown off balance and began starving while those creatures who were smaller and lighter had a better chance at survival. Those that didn’t adapt or did so too slowly, were fated to perish.

I’ve struggled to imagine the dinosaurs-to-birds transition. In my mind’s eye I can put feathers on T. Rex, but I can’t picture him being chased away from the feeder by a squirrel.

So I asked Trail Baboon Poet Laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler to pen a few lines to put this research in context. He deflected the compliment (as usual) and said the very gradual process of natural word selection that would lead to developing original verse on such a scientific topic could take years to complete.

But he could do it in ten minutes if he was allowed to steal a poem from someone else.

That wasn’t what I had in mind, but since the topic here is speedy adaptation to rapidly changing circumstances and time is short, I relented.

Forgive us, Edgar Allen Poe.

Back in the Cretaceous era, dinosaurs still roamed the Terra,
Many of them kept on doing what they’d always done before.
On they plodded, often napping. On occasion they heard flapping.
Lightly feathered flutters slapping, clapping many times and more.
Sounding nothing like the locomotion of a dinosaur.
They knew not what was in store.

One contingent started shrinking naturally and without thinking;
All the rest kept eating, eating, eating, eating, eating more;
Gorging on the food abundant, massive creatures turned redundant.
Every day another plate awash with calories galore.
Plumping up at every pore.

When the skies began to darken, many of the beasts did harken
Seeing that their kind was doomed some moped about, à la Eeyore.
Others, bent to problem solving, rather late, began evolving.
Well behind the group already changing – changing at their core.
Sprouting wings and hollow bones is rather an exhausting chore.
Transformation made them sore.

Dinosaurs becoming birds left some observers lost for words.
While others questioned feathers as an element of what they wore.
Why, they asked, would scaly creatures not retain their scaly features?
Turning into fish that swim instead of avians that soar?
Quoth the Raven: Albacore!

What was your most dramatic transition?


Up the Viral Staircase

About fifteen years ago I heard how blogging would change the world of journalism and transform the ways we consume information.

Someday every person would write a blog and traditional news gathering would soon give way to a million beautifully written first-person accounts of every important event and critical issue. Paid reporters would become obsolete.

I thought that was silly, and I was certain blogging was something I would never do.

Time made a fool of me on that last point.

But I’m not yet convinced that personal blogs can change the world aside from simply increasing the level of written noise. Although with so many computer users out there offering their precious attention to online articles, the potential seems great.

In a sense this is like playing the lottery – you don’t blog for very long without entertaining the fantasy that something you’ve written will “go viral” and lead to a situation where so many people are following you and reading your work, you can lounge around in your pajamas all day, making a comfortable living by sharing your interesting thoughts with an eager, easily transfixed world.

The power of massive popularity is potent! I started blogging in the Fall of 2008. Almost six years in, I’m still viral-resistant and massive-popularity free.

But the other day I read about a survey that explains what I have to do to score big. The researchers took a look at what it takes for online content to be widely shared, making the person responsible for said content an overnight sensation.

All you have to do is follow the steps upwards to glory, right? A sort of viral staircase. It turns out certain kinds of articles are shared more readily than others.

The problem is this: writing one of those articles sounds like a lot of work. I didn’t start blogging to put in any actual effort.

The survey, from BuzzSumo, is pretty clear about what succeeds. Long, in-depth, well-researched pieces (at least 2,000 words) are preferred by influential people who share lots of “content”. The most widely shared posts inspire feelings of “awe”, “laughter”, and “amusement”, in that order.

And if you don’t already know the difference between laughter and amusement, your cause is hopeless.

There were more viral content triggers listed based on interviews with people who were asked why they shared a particular story online.

The reasons were:

  • To bring valuable and entertaining content to one another
  • To define themselves to others (give people a better sense of who they are)
  • To grow and nourish relationships (stay connected with others)
  • For self-fulfillment (to feel more involved in the world)
  • To get the word out on causes they care about.

And one more thing – most of the top-shared articles were quizzes! This conforms with the theory that people will readily share a thing if they think it provides a window into their own personalities.

All very instructive, and of course I’d love to write a post that will be seen by millions. How am I doing on the checklist? Not so well. At this point I’ve written fewer than five hundred words – not even a fourth of the way to the required 2,000 word point for world-dominating status.


Clearly I will have to find a way to short cut this guaranteed-viral content process.

How? With a stupid poem, of course!

I’ve highlighted all the key words so there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that I’m doing what I can to touch every important base.

Please please please share what you saw -
A blog that filled your heart with awe.
It’s deadly aim on social cues meant
you felt waves of deep amusement.
And when thinking of it, after,
you convulsed in gales of laughter.

Observations, so aligned
your personality defined.
A simple string of words has willed
that you feel fully self-fulfilled.
And if you don’t know what that is,
It’s too late now – this is a quiz.

A post that hits its targets well
and rings each viral content bell
except this heartless length command -
the word count must exceed two grand!
At seven hundred now – No dice!
Unless, of course, you read it thrice.

How good are you at following directions?


Polar Pivot Poetry

The European Space Agency, analyzing data from a trio of paddle-shaped satellites charmingly called The Swarm, has announced observations that indicate Earth’s magnetic North Pole is drifting southward.

This could mean the magnetic poles are about to flip, something that has been geologically documented as part of the planet’s history, though it only occurs “every few million years.”

So you’ll forgive me if I’ve forgotten exactly how that went the last time. Our magnetic field protects us from deadly cosmic rays, so any alteration is disconcerting to say the least.

How are we supposed to feel about this? The changeover is said to take a few thousand years, so it’s unlikely that you’ll wake up tomorrow with the poles suddenly reversed, but the mere thought of it is already creating a very disturbing effect.

It has started to generate random limericks.

Yes, the poles of our magnetic field
have been known to occasionally yield
to the urge to reverse.
It’s a magnetic curse
when the flip side … Surprise! … is revealed.

Then your compass will turn to the south
and the polarized teeth in your mouth
will so quickly invert
that it won’t even hurt
But you’ll lisp with each thought you espouth.

Your internals will somersault too.
Turning upside down inside of you.
With intestines for brains
You’ll develop new pains
Sitting down on the parts meant to chew.

But your head’s where the flip will appall.
For the plumbing down low now stands tall.
Every word that you speak
Will sound more like a leak
Which may not seem too different at all.

When have you flipped?


Opposites Detract

A new study says polarization has increased in the American electorate over the past 20 years.
More people are hard left or hard right, they have a greater tendency to associate with like-minded people and are more dismissive of those from the opposing camp.

Concerned about this trend and wishing to do something to counteract my worldview-limiting leftward ideological isolation, I reached out to our Trail Baboon poet laureate, Schulyer Tyler Wyler, who has three names that he uses regularly and moneyed relatives so I assume he’s a staunch Republican.

As soon as I noted my concerns about political disfunction and revealed that I have voted exclusively for Democrats in the last four presidential elections, he cut the conversation short and has since refused to deal with me directly, preferring that I communicate with him through Roderick, his minion.

I asked Roderick to relay the message that I wanted a short work of sing-song poetry to lament this destructive partisan trend in our national conversation. Roderick brought back the reply that I could ask for a poem but under no circumstances could I or my “fellow travelers” dictate anything about the content.

I took that to mean it might not be a lament.

The voices of our people rise.
Our minds are all made up.
Our taking points are no surprise.
We simply echo, “Yup”

We are not cattle of the field,
But up our minds are made.
All curiosity, congealed.
All doubts have been allayed.

Don’t think our thoughts inflexible.
Just made, all up, our minds are.
Alternatives are execrable.
Consigned where our behinds are.

I think STW is mocking me here.  Unless he’s agreeing with me.  It’s so hard to tell when you can’t read someone’s label.

What makes you unorthodox?