Other Writing: Family

Reckless Moose

© 2013 by Joe Buffalo

My brother Christopher, who imagines himself a moose the way I identify as a buffalo1 went up to Yale to look at some material in the Archives and Manuscripts library. He thought the material could be made into a book, but then grew daunted at the task he seemed to be taking on himself. I wrote this song for him, to be sung to the tune of the old folk song “Careless Love” (here is Joan Baez singing it: http://tinyurl.com/lu5hjlv).

Moose, O Moose, O reckless Moose.
Moose, O Moose, O reckless Moose.
Reckless Moose, O reckless Moose.
You see what reckless Moose has done.

Up to Yale to take a look.
Up to Yale to take a look.
Up to Yale to take a look.
Now he has to write a book.

Proofing text ‘til the break of day.
Proofing text ‘til the break of day.
Proofing text ‘til the break of day.
How’d it all come down this way?

How he wish that train would come.
How he wish that train would come.
How he wish that train would come.
And take him back where he come from.

You see what reckless Moose can do.
See what reckless Moose can do.
See what reckless Moose can do.
Makes his whole life crash, and his laptop too.

Wedding Song For Christina and Adam

How do you do, a little kiss,
And suddenly from there to this?

The stars aligned, and here they are?
Pretty quick to come so far.

But it all was easy sledding
From the first date to the wedding.

Old Confucian I Ching wheeze: Cre-
ative rises in the easy.

Things are pretty good when trust
Counts somewhere near as much as lust.

Two adults control their fears?
Happens every hundred years.

There’s no reason to delay
Adam and Christina’s day.

This is what they came to long for
While with people they were wrong for.

So seize the day and carpe diem
As the A.M. glides to P.M.

Take a real deep breath and sign,
Right there on that dotted line.

Tie the knot and ring the bell.
This is going very well.


Wedding first, and then the baby.
Really coming! Don’t mean maybe!

First a grape-seed, then a grape,
Then she takes a peanut shape,

This part lengthens, that part rounds,
Suddenly she’s seven pounds.

Growing quickly, pound by pound;
The wheels on the bus go round and round.

English, yes, but when she’s two,
Μιλά ελληνικά πολύ.

Alphabet and Golden Rule,
First grade, ninth grade, graduate school.

Mostly hasn’t happened yet,
But it will. And soon, you bet.

Everything goes by so fast
A future’s now’s already past.


So look around; try to remember
This eleventh of November.

Marvel what it took to get here;
Let your long-term memory set here.

Pick a moment of this scene
And keep your recollection green.

Bottom line and take-away:
If you want to have your day,

When your chance comes, don’t refuse –
Luck is knowing when to choose.


Welcome Home, Christina

My sister-in-law Christina became very ill from some kind of patent remedy or supplement and ended up in the hospital. I wrote this poem to welcome her home.

                 by James Whitcomb Riley

So welcome home, Christina!
  You done give us a turn!
And no more herbal doodads is
  A lesson we can learn! No fancy patent supplements!
  Just candy bars and gin,
And you won’t have no trouble
  Like the trouble you was in! The next time you feels poorly, try
  A crunchy Baby Ruth,
And wash it down with spirits, like,
  At least a hundred prooth. And no more echinacea!
  Get carob off your plate!
For alcohol and sugar is
  What made this country great! Amen.

January 2014

James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), the “Children’s Poet,” author of 16 volumes of truly awful sentimental poems in phony affected Hoosier dialect, is considered by many to have been America’s Worst Poet. Others dispute this, believing Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959), the “People’s Poet,” to have been slightly worse. It is a close question. Really Bob Dylan is a worse poet than either of them, or maybe worse than both of them combined, but I’m not allowed to say that.

Christina Wounded

For my sister-in-law, accidentally cut by a sharp blade in distant Greece

Counting sheep …
  Fast asleep!
Cannot hear
  Computer beep.

Newly sliced
  By shiny metal,
Gotta give it
  Time to settle.

Get some rest and
  Take a snooze.
Maybe drink
  A little booze.

We’ll connect
  When we have time.
Till then we’ll scan
  And also rhyme.

Birthday Poem for Christina 2018

So mazel tov, Christina,
  On reaching thirty-two.
Your growing years add dignity
  And gravitas to you.

You deserve a celebration
  For making it this far.
Perhaps a glass of ouzo in
  A friendly island bar?

Do folks do birthday cakes in Greece,
  With candles burning bright?
They should bring you flaming pastry
  On this very special night.

Meanwhile your agèd B-in-L
  Is missing you today,
But soon will make you welcome
  In the City by the Bay.

June 2018                                                                    

Sixth Birthday Poem for Arianna

February twenty-ninth,
   Two thousand and eighteen:
It is a day that never was,
   That no one’s ever seen.

And yet, my niece, by artful tricks
   All hidden from the scene,
You use this day for turning six,
   An age you’ve never been. 

This special day, by happy rule
   The whole world celebrates.
The kids at the Cathedral School
   Eat cake from paper plates.

But they are not the only ones.
   The squirrels in the park
Are making birthday cakes from nuts
   They gather after dark.

The birds in nests atop the trees
    Are waiting for a crumb.
And snakes in tunnels deep below:
  They also hope for some.

The flags on all the buildings fly
   Exceptionally high
When Arianna, six years old,
   Is noticed passing by.

This is the year you learn to read
   In English and in Greek.
I’m sure you will have got that done
   About this time next week.

And don’t forget there’s dancing, too,
   And painting red and green and blue.
And so keep on advancing through
   The tasks your teachers set for you.

It never is too soon to ask:
  What is the meaning of the task?
What do the grownups want for you
  That you have all these things to do?

Some things are easy, some are tough.
  Why are you learning all this stuff?
And can there ever come a time
  When finally you’ve learned enough?

Fifth Birthday Poem for Arianna

Arianna’s turning five.
That’s how long she’s been alive.
Three’s forgotten. Four is past.
She is growing up real fast.

Future’s vague, but one thing’s certain.
This is the year of Kindergerten
Where she will go to socialize
With kids of every shape and size.

Get to know St. John’s Cathedral.
A space both vast and polyhedral.1
You could drive a bus in there
With room to park it anywhere.

There will be dance. There will be pizza.
And probably a trip to Grizza.
And plenty more to see and do,
Enough to see the whole year through.

So have a happy, pleasant year.
Cut back on cigarettes and beer.
Learn a few astounding tricks,
And suddenly, you will be six.


Fourth Birthday Poem for Arianna

I wrote this poem for my niece Arianna Louise Phillips, who celebrates her fourth birthday on Leap Day (February 29), 2016.

Happy birthday!
You are four.
You are not three
Any more.

Find a thing
That’s fun to do.
Four is made of
Two and two.

Is meant to please
And Louise.

Run to the park
And climb a tree.
Four is made of
One and three.

Blow out birthday candles.
Wish for a

Open presents.
Have some fun!
Four is made of
Three and one.

February twenty-nine,
A day as rare as it is fine.
We can all be glad it’s here;
It doesn’t come in every year.

I think this poem
Ia almost done.
(Four is made from
Five, less one.)

The poem is finished now. It’s through.
But here is something very weird.
The poem is being sent to you
From Uncle David’s long gray beard.