Other Writing: Major Arcana

Medical Marijuana

My friend is being treated for cancer. He is taking morphine for pain, supplemented by dilaudid, but finds they make him drowsy and constipated (no surprise there). And he is forgetting to eat, and having trouble keeping down what he does eat. He posted on his blog that he has been finding marijuana very helpful for all these problems. So I wrote this poem and left it on his blog as a comment.


Don’t forget, in times of need,
There’s nothing like a little weed.

Morphine’s very useful, though
It makes things seem a little slow,

And stops folks up. But this is not
What happens when you smoke some pot.

Things begin to seem amusing
That morphine would just make confusing.

And as our brains fill up with light
We start to have an appetite!

Dilaudid? Sure, but who knows what
Is in that stuff? Whereas with pot,

We plant a seed, and watch it grow
About eleven feet or so,

Then put the leaves into a bong,
Organic as the day is long.

No added salts to make it green.
No phenyl-oxy-formaline.

“And God said, let the earth yield grass.”
(That’s in the Book of Genesas.)1

Flag Auction

I was responsible for selling a group of flags from the former Wanamaker Collection at auction. I thought I heard that the first auction of these flags was to be held in Seekonk, Massachusetts.

Let’s sell our flags in Seekonk,
  In Seekonk by the sea!
Where the geese with feral glee honk
  As they fly o’er you and me.

Watch them flap and wave and ripple
   In the brilliant Seekonk sun!
Hoist old Wanamaker’s flags high! Then
   Let’s sell them, every one.

Later I discovered that the auction was not set for Seekonk, Massachusetts, but for Seabrook, New Hampshire, where there is a huge nuclear power plant. So I replaced my doggerel with another.

Come buy our flags at auction,
  And hoist them in the park,
Before the cooling tower blows
  And everything goes dark. 

The More or Less Peaceable Kingdom

by Pipi van Firkhall, dds


Posies are red, violence are blue. I am not a sheep. Are you?
I’m a moose and you’re a goose. We are in the ballet russe,
Where we dance upon the lawn The après-midi of a fawn.
Stanley here’s a coral snake. Spends his time beneath the lake.
We’ve asked him not to hunt or kill The passers-by. But Stanley will.
“And dust shall be the serpent’s meat.”1 Not what Stanley likes to eat.
Elmer is a buffalo, Strong and silent. Rather slow,
But stolid on the endless plain When snow drifts down, and sleet, and rain.
Microbes all are Joe and Fred And Susan, Harry, Max and Ted,
They live inside a drop of jam With Eloise, and Pat, and Sam.
Louise and Neil, the trilobites. Went frolicking on moonlit nights.
They were romantically linked. But then their species went extinct.
Over there’s the warthog, Nate. We always tell him he looks great!
Franklin Delano, the zebra Said his prayers in perfect Hebra.
A lion got him anyway. How bothersome to be the prey.


But being hunted down and such Just doesn’t happen all that much.
We have a Peaceful Kingdom here. The leopards hang out with the deer.
Though bats and lizards eat mosquitoes, Chimpanzees prefer their Fritos.
And cheerful monkeys gaily scoot Among the trees, and fight for fruit.
The primates form a corps d’élite. They hang from branches by their feet.
Shirley is an otter shrew, But wants to be a primate too.
Primates are so much in vogue That otter shrews are going rogue.
Everyone’s a primate fan, But no one wants to be a man.
They smoke. They play the drums and scream. They throw their trash into the stream.
They let their smelly motors run. They kill our comrades just for fun.
We don’t let the humans in. They stink our forest up with sin.
So in among the bears and pandas, There’s just one human (Bernie Sanders).

October 2016

Eating Ants

When the rains come in California, ants swarm from the soggy ground outside, up water pipes and through tiny cracks, into the house. There is just about no way to stop them. They get into everything. But the good news is that, unlike other insects, ants don’t ruin food — they are not only edible (as many other cultures know), they are delicious. Mosquitoes, no; for that you’d have to be a lizard or a bat or something. But ants are a health food. One rainy evening, with ants in the Gorgonzola, I wrote a sonnet about it.

Nowhere in the Book of Can’ts
Does it say you can’t eat ants.
Ants may seem serene and placid,
But they’re full of formic acid.
This adds a piquant touch of spice
And makes their flavor very nice.
Ants in the Brie or St. André?
You can eat it anyway.

Feeling weak or slightly pallid?
Add some ants to fresh green salad!
Chop them up or eat them whole
In a stew or casserole.
Then finish up the formic way,
With ants inside the crème brûlée.

February 2016

O To Be In Yemen

Note: The U. S. Department of State heard about an Al Qaeda plot, based in Yemen, for a terrorist strike against American interests somewhere, perhaps soon, and in timorous response on August 1, 2013, shut down a large number of diplomatic posts in Moslem countries, 19 of them for at least a week. The following notice appeared in the press.

Closed posts through Aug. 10: Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, Dhahran, Jeddah, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Manama, Muscat, Sanaa, Tripoli, Antananarivo, Bujumbura, Djibouti, Khartoum, Kigali, and Port Louis.

Re-opening August 5: Dhaka, Algiers, Nouakchott, Kabul, Herat, Mazar el Sharif, Baghdad, Basrah, and Erbil.

O to be in Yemen
Now that August’s here.
They do mistreat their wemen,
But at least they don’t drink beer.

O to be in Juba
Down in sunny South Sudan,
Where the power isn’t strong enough
To run a ceiling fan.

O to be in Antan-
anarivo by the bay.
The consulate won’t open for
At least another day.

They say Nouakchott’s perfect
For an ardent getaway.
The embassy is not a place
You’d go to anyway.

In Doha the ambassador
Is lounging by the pool.
No work to do in Basrah,
Or Port Louis, or Kabul.

But back to work in Dhaka,
And in Muscat, and Erbil,
Where our diplomats are showing
They have nerves of tempered steel.

They don’t have to attack us,
They just have to say they might.
We lock the doors and bar the gates
And cower there in fright.

They say they might attack us,
But they don’t say where or when.
So why should it be safe next week
To open up again?

Why stop at Bujumbura?
Why not Rome, or Montreal?
That would really tell the world
Our backs are to the wall.

Don’t need a bomb to beat us,
Or a grim explosive vest.
Just send a bunch of e-mails,
And we will do the rest!

August 2013

Barbara Bel Geddes


The poem you have asked to read is SOMEWHAT OFF-COLOR Continue? Cancel?


These past few days
I always find
This rhythm going
Through my mind.

From dawn of day
To setting sun,
The iambs settle
One by one.

We can see
The power of

Elastic but
Hypnotic meter;
No sestina
Could be sweeter.

Thin or fat,
Comes down to that.

Through the brain
This rhythm hums.
Quatrains beat
Like jungle drums.

Jesus loves me,
This I know.
His house is in
The village, though.

I could sit here
All day long,
Tapping out
This simple song.

I no longer
Have the patience
For criminal

I’m feeling their
Malign effects.
De minimis
Non curat lex.

But I have learned
My lesson well.
I have to write
What I can sell.

In the words
of Manny Kant,
I try to give ‘em
What they want.

And so I have
to write in prose.
Well, c’est la vie.
That’s how it goes.

Burma-Shave was a brand of shaving cream. For future scholars: shaving cream was a substance like soap men applied to their faces to soften their beards and prepare it for shaving. As their beards immediately started to grow back and needed to be shaved again the very next day, it is unknown why men did this.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about Burma-Shave. “Burma-Shave is a United States brand of brushless shaving cream introduced by the American Safety Razor Company in the 1920s, famous for its clever advertising gimmick of posting limericks on sequential highway billboard signs. Burma-Shave sign series appeared from 1925 to 1963 in all of the lower 48 states except for New Mexico, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Four or five consecutive billboards would line highways, so they could be read sequentially by motorists driving by. This use of the billboard was a highly successful advertising gimmick, drawing attention and passers-by who were curious to discover the punchline.”

Examples from the Wikipedia Burma-Shave page:

To change that
shaving job
to joy
you gotta use
the real McCoy

A chin
where barbed wire
bristles stand
is bound to be
a no ma’ams land

Riot at
drug store
calling all cars
100 customers
99 jars

The wolf
is shaved
so neat and trim
Red Riding Hood
is chasing him

The complete text of all the Burma-Shave jingles appears on the Web at http://burma-shave.org/jingles/

When Les Wisner began having trouble at his café with ASCAP and BMI demanding he buy a license from them, he banned performers at his café from singing cover songs and insisted they only sing their own compositions. He posted a sign which said:

Want my dough
If you play covers
Out you go
Burma Shave

This got the rhythm going in my head, and this poem was the result.

I note that this stanza:

Jesus loves me,
This I know.
His house is in
The village, though.

would work just as well the other way:

Whose woods these are
I think I know
Because the Bible
Tells me so.

Ribbit: A Calypso of the Islands

In January 2001 I e-mailed a friend in New York.  For some reason we began to punctuate our conversations with frog calls: ribbit!  He told me he was not at home but in the U. S. Virgin Islands.  So I sent him this lyric.

Ribbit: A Calypso of the Islands

You be in de ilans, mon!
Lots o wata, lots o sun!
Drinkin all dat ilan rum ‒

Snowin up in New York City.
Weather dere be really shitty!
Down de ilans, warm an pretty ‒

Lites be on, but I don see why
Sted o rum we drinkin Nehi.
Rather be in U S V I ‒

February gonna bring
Snow an slush an ever’ting!
Why you don stay dere till spring?
Ribbit! Ribbit! Ribbit!