A Ballet on Bubble Wrap?

A ballet on bubble wrap?
I know—it sounds like crap.
But when it  actually came to pass


It wasn’t half bad
And so I felt a bit crass
For presuming it would be pathetic,  sad.


There are other kinds of packing material
which I’ll now address in a manner serial.

It was better than a dance on packing  peanuts,
which I like to refer to as “albino  Cheetohs.”
Granted the dancers were anorexic  she-nuts,
But in their tutus they looked pretty  neat-o.


There’s also that stuff called  excelsior
which looks like dried whole wheat  pasta
or the shorn hair of a girl named  Elinor
or the dreadlocks of a notable Rasta.


The choreographer was a Dutchman who’s  afraid of flying,
a guy by the name of Kylián.
The chances I’ll check out his work  again—I’m not lying—
are approximately one in a  myllián.

For Mary Agnes O’Keefe

You always said you’d put a brick on my head
to stop me from growing;
this, even after you were confined to bed,
grandfather long since dead,
and the youngest of us knowing
you’d gone round the bend,

accusing him of having an affair.
To you I owe what Irish I have;
your wit, the crooked smile from here to there,
irony beneath a head of white hair,
that said it’s a complicated thing, a laugh;
part truth, part jest, best kept between friends.

You were buried in your Altar Society dress we were told;
it was a long way, not a trip for children.
What sins, I wonder, did you confess to the priest
at bedside for last rites, as he blessed you.
Was there one last quip as your life came to an end?

An Indifferent Irishman Signs My Petition

I ask if he can spare a minute and he says yes.
This is about your ancestors and mine, I say,
how, forced off the land, they sailed west
to Boston where, if they didn’t die on the way,
they and their faith were scorned in the schools.

He listens, a bit distracted I can see.
He has work he’d rather do
than listen to a lurid history
told by a man too full of rue.
He lumps me with the zealots and other fools

who have yet to learn that the fight is done;
they won, but so did we, and a truce was called.
We have the jobs they kept us from
if we want them; why should history be recalled
when there is now a fair if tenuous set of rules?

He hears me out and signs the sheet;
it costs him nothing but a moment’s scribbling.
He hands it back, I sense his need to be discreet
with one who holds a grudge–there’s no use quibbling.
What would his forefathers say, the fierce O’Tooles?

Telling Colleen the Truth

Walt Whitman reserved particular scorn
for the members of that accursed race,
the Irish-born.

“A filthy rabble” he asserted,
he who celebrated all races and kinds
couldn’t find it in his heart to tolerate thine.

He envisioned America as a great big goulash
into which all should be mixed
except me and you, lass.

I can’t imagine what we did or said to merit
his antipathy; we apparently gave him
a case of sympathetic paralysis.

And then there’s Freud, who said the Irish were
the only people unsusceptible of psychoanalysis.
Maybe we just don’t like nosy questions.

Perhaps some drink and talk or, for the writers,
some solitary gloom is all it takes to chase
away the blues, or get them down on paper.

It seems self-pity and truculence are our lot,
my dear, and we’ll just have to stand apart
from the world.   Sing a too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra

for your old Irish great-grandmother, who
would have told you “Don’t break your arm
patting yourself on the back.”

The O’Keefes who you come from also said
if they’re going to call you a horse thief
you might as well steal some.

And we might as well love
each other if they won’t.

On Being Hailed by the Former Head Cheerleader of One’s High School While Crossing Boston Common

(a poem whose title alone is longer than a haiku)


On Boston Common, one fine Sabbath
A horrid sound heard I;
It caused all but the stony deaf
To turn their heads to spy
From whence it came, and why.

And only I could answer that
As my name thus was hurled
By a shaker of pom-poms with eclat
When she was but a girl
Who wore her hair in curls.

I turned and gaped–
In horror gasped–
There was no clear escape.
Down Winter Street, up Park perhaps?
Too late-she had me in her grasp.

“Remember me?” she yelled, “It’s Sal!”
“Of course!” (Had I a choice?)
“Your very favorite high school gal!”
(Boom boxes would admire the noise
produced by that resounding voice.)

By gestures fine and subdued tones
I tried to quiet her skirl.
But she was launched into that zone
Where cartwheels whirl
And flags unfurl.

“How’s your sister, how’re your folks?”
“Just fine and how are yours?”
“They’re great!” she cried.  The dead awoke,
Left their coffins, came outdoors
And marched towards us, four-by-four.

“She who disturbs the day of rest,”
The Puritan shades decreed,
“Shall wear a letter on her chest
To signify her loathsome deed,
Size large, so those who run may read.”

“Let’s see,” said she, “I’ll take an S,
a U, two C’s, an E,
then two more S’s on my dress-
That’s really all I’ll need,
A penitential life to lead.”

This cryptogram so mystified
The souls of the living dead
They sought to have her clarify,
After scratching diaphanous heads.

“We’re wondering,” at last one said,
“What meaning do these symbols bear?
What object do they address?”
“It’s simple! These letters I will wear

“’cause ‘S-U-C-C-E-S-S’–
That’s the way we spell SUCCESS!”

Available in print and Kindle formats on amazon.com as part of the collection The Girl With the Cullender on Her Head (and other wayward women).

I Kissed a Shirelle

I was out of college and at loose ends
in a small town in Missouri.
I was making no progress with my circle of friends
who were anything but in a hurry.

We’d hang around with nothing to do
on a Friday and Saturday night.
Idle minds get in trouble—and so would you–
seeing nothing but dull rural sights.

And then one day I read in the pages
of the local rag called The Bazoo
that our burg would be graced by those 60’s rages–
The Shirelles! They were coming through!

If you’re too young to recall “Doo ronde ronde”
and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”—
I have only the most abject pity for you,
your loss is the source of much sorrow.

That night I went to the Ramada Inn
on the western edge of town
and asked where and when the music’d begin
and was shown to some stairs to walk down.

It was, all in all, a sad final act
for one of the great girl groups;
folding tables and chairs (vinyl backed)
to sit in and hear “Baby It’s You.”

There was the obligatory opening act,
four guys in a soul revue,
who would serve the girls to musically up-back
as best as they could do.

They ran through their numbers, instrumental,
while I drank my two-drink minimum.
Then three or four more, it got detrimental,
to anything but mortal sinimum.

I was getting impatient, drumming my fingers
on a tacky plastic table mat,
when the bandleader said time to bring on the singers
who’re the reason you are where you’re at.

They were in fine form and they brought down the house
as they sang and danced through their hits,
hair piled high, wearing low-cut blouses
that revealed their gorgeous, uh, figures.

As the night wound down, before they headed out of town
the girls gave us one final treat;
they came into the audience in their elegant gowns
and one pulled me out of my seat!

When the President asks you to the White House
you put on your best coats and pants;
so what do you do when a Shirelle asks you
if you’re in the mood to dance?

You get up, of course, and do as best you can
as I did in front of the yokels–
every woman, child and man–
and hope you don’t look like a jokel.

And then came the moment, when I’m dead in a ditch,
‘twill be remembered if anybody missed me;
As the song ended a Shirelle (I don’t know which)
Leaned close and breathlessly kissed me!

As I lie on my deathbed at the end of my days,
Whether I’m going to heaven or more likely, hell
The last words the few mourners will hear me say
Are just these and no more: “I kissed a Shirelle.”

Long Story Short . . .

I write to make cruel but justified sport
of people who use the phrase “long story short.”
You can bet–if you happen to think that I’m wrong–
when those words are heard a tale’s gone on too long.

To say them, of course, only makes the thing longer
which makes my objection just that much stronger.
I’ll tell you one thing and I mean it, old sport—
Why can’t you contrive to just keep the thing short?

You say you dropped excess words–“To make a.”
I appreciate that, but I think you’re a fake-a.
Your story is still near the size of King Kong.
It’s a PBS pledge drive—a Grateful Dead song.

I’m not very fond of you rambling sorts—
who seem to think talking’s a spectator sport.
Your monologue dates from a prior millennium
If there exist any longer, I’d sure hate to see ‘em.

And so let me close with some linguistic mortar—
To stick ‘twixt the bricks of your verbal disorder:
If when next I see you your mouth is still talkin’ it—
I’ll take off one shoe and put a sock in it.