A Reptile Dysfunction

Explorers who first reached the Nile

Soon came upon a crocodile

Whose improprieties lay steeped in lore.

The wily reptile would beguile

An out-of-towner with a smile

Belying a betrayal at its core.

Dear friend, I wish to welcome you!

How was the road from Timbuktu?

Come near that I may hear what news you bear…

In truth, the beast had had its fill

Of horns and hooves and ibis bills

And thus, resolved to seek more tender fare.

The wayfarer, now curious

Despite all signs injurious

Would take the bait, not wishing to be rude

Recounting tales of spitting snakes

Of feuding sheikhs and salted lakes

And bartering with Bedouins for food.

Then we must feast! the creature cried

If you will let me be your guide

We’ll cross to where the spoils are most exotic.

It’s just offshore, a pleasant ride

Do climb aboard and sit astride!

And voyage with me into the aquatic.

To eat one friend is impolite

To eat two speaks of appetite

To eat them all may lead to the odd question.

But be it large or small amounts

To some it’s what’s inside that counts   

A thought our croc is currently digesting.

Mass Hysteria

In Physics, nothingness has weight

Which leads to some disquiet

Among the more dense who debate:

So, why then do we diet?

Tudor Suitor

Royal Cradle | Photo

Old King Henry had six wives
Whose days were full of dread
For most of them led tragic lives
Then often wound up dead.
Catherine of Aragon
To whom he first proposed
Could not produce a princely son
So he said Adios!
Then Anne Boleyn, closer to home
Demanded that they wed
So Henry cut off ties with Rome
And then cut off her head.
Poor Jane Seymour was the one
Who finally played her part
When she, at last, produced a son
But died, which broke his heart.
Anne of Cleves, the next one booked
Was regal, young and wealthy
The problem was she didn’t look
Quite like her royal selfie.
Catherine Howard, it was said
No man had ever dated
But rumours spread after they’d wed
So was decapitated.
Catherine Parr, a lively sort
Who wielded her own power
Helped organise his kids and court
Once she’d escaped The Tower.

All Henry wanted was a son
A prince whom he could teach
To rule his people when he’d gone
But this was out of reach.
The irony which overwhelms
This patriarchal scene?
He gave to England and its realms
Perhaps their greatest queen
Because Young Bess, put to the test
Excelled in her employ
And showed the world it takes a girl
To do it like a boy.

Hue and Cry

On the news they warn: the city’s now a combat zone

Turned off the TV and went outside to be alone

Some I know are marching, mostly peaceful, others not

Strangers now are asking me if I’m a patriot

Sitting in my garden, how I love the peace and quiet

I’ll fight for a cause but I’m not brave enough to riot

Everyone has history, the grievance lists are long

Who gets to decide whose version’s right and whose is wrong?

Our multi-coloured tapestry is starting to unweave

Can we not live together? Were we just being naive?

I come into my garden for the colours and the light

A joy I’d miss if flowers only came in black and white.

Arch Nemesis

What Is the “Ides” of March? | Britannica

Beware the Ides! foretells the fall
Of he who rose to conquer Gaul
And lands still further from his home
This warrior, this son of Rome.
On his return to claim his right
A haruspex with second sight
Met Caesar by the Senate arch
To warn him of the Ides of March.
They’d killed an ox and found no spleen
An omen that could only mean
The Consul should fear for his life
As did, Calpurnia, his wife.
But Caesar didn’t fear the gods
For he had overcome the odds
To overshadow mortal men
And take his seat in Rome again.
So came the day, but nothing passed
Until the Senators amassed
Fulfilling what was prophesied
Thus, on the fifteenth, Caesar died.
Of every haruspex, it’s said
They earn their living from the dead
And though they claim the role of seer
It’s often what we overhear

Seasoned Greetings

When greeting guests in Tokyo

The custom is to bow down low

While in Tibet both old and young

Say hi by sticking out their tongue.

In France it’s chic to peck the cheek

And friends will clap in Mozambique

Though Greenlanders will sniff your face

Before they help you with your case.

Most Eskimos rub nose to nose

In India they touch your toes

And Zambians will squeeze the thumbs

Of visitors considered chums.

Through handshakes, winks and nods we say:

I’m pleased that you dropped by today!

And bless those friends who always know

The sign for when it’s time to go…

Mother of Invention

At Cana, water turned to wine

Delighting all the guests

And showed the world The Great Divine

Considers all requests.

Although some question Was it prayer?

Or did a son discover

The force behind a mother’s glare

Is unlike any other?

Ante Establishment

Randomly flicking through the TV channels I happened upon a show called Child Genius, a programme whose aim is to discover which children in Britain have never been allowed to climb a tree, drink Fanta and make friends their own age. Contestants range in age from 8 – 12 in Earth years and from what I gather there are only two eligibility requirements: they must dress like Puritans and manage their own hedge fund. As for the parents, alas, there are no rules otherwise these same kids would be attending birthday parties and dancing to K-pop.

One distinctive family comprised Calliope (the child genius), Octavia (her overbearing mother), Peregrine (her hipster father) and 4 year-old twin brothers, as yet unnamed.

“We’re waiting for a Labour government first because then the whole ordeal will be less traumatic for them,” Peregrine explained.

“Watch out for the fat one – he’s a biter. He ate three of the gerbils in my control group,” Calliope warned. “Octavia, it’s 3 o’clock.”

Interviewer: What happens at 3 o’clock?

“I give Calliope her feed.”

Interviewer: Her what?

“She’s still on breast milk,” Octavia stated matter-of-factly, now fumbling underneath her burka. “Excuse me for a minute. I’m afraid these are more form over function.”

Interviewer: I was going to ask you about that, actually. Isn’t that a Peperami in your bag?

“Oh, I’m not Muslim,” she grimaced. “I don’t even believe in God. It’s more of a statement.”

Interviewer: Got it, but getting back to the feed: are you telling us that Calliope has lived on nothing but breast milk since she was born?

“Oh, no. I add my own juices to it as well.”

[viewers stopped eating at this point]

Interviewer: Please, God, tell me we’re talking about lemon grass.

“I have a juicer for vegetables and fruit,” Octavia confirmed, “but I also have all their placentas in the freez-“”

It was a shame really because Calliope seemed like a nice kid who wasn’t bothered whether or not she won Child Genius. Octavia, however, was on a mission. After years of subjecting her first born to stem cell shakes and hyperbaric chambers, this TV programme would vindicate her once and for all. After all, it wasn’t about the children; she was the true genius and, by her own calculations, Calliope only needed to make it to Week 4 before TV producers and the viewing public realized this. After that it would be book deals, speaking tours and Oprah.

Interviewer: Calliope, do you have any regrets about coming onto the progreamme? Did you ask to come on it?

“To be honest, I’d rather be doing something else,” she wrinkled her nose.

Interviewer: Playing with your gerbils?

“Gambling online. Every minute I’m in this stupid studio I’m losing money.”

Interviewer: I beg your pardon?

“My game’s Poker. Last night I was about to beat the bubble until my Aces got cracked. I ended up folding faster than Superman on wash day. I looked like a total fish,” she rolled her eyes.

Interviewer: Uh, okay. So you won’t be going to Oxford then?

“Oh, I’ll be going to Oxford,” she arched an eyebrow, “but it won’t be Flash Cards I’ll be playing with, if you catch my drift.”

Interviewer: How will you balance gambling with your studies? And is it even legal? You’re too young to gamble, aren’t you?

Calliope discreetly opened her Frozen II pencil case to reveal a wad of crisp one-hundred dollar bills. Drawing one out, she folded it expertly with one hand until she’d fashioned a small fish, which she handed to me.

“Why don’t you go buy yourself something pretty and leave the legal stuff to me? After all, who’s the genius here?” she asked, morphing from Girl Guide to Al Capone before my eyes.

Interviewer: What about your mother’s plans for you?

“Octavia’s seeking validation but it can’t come through me. Her insecurities stem from a lifetime’s inability to rise above her own mediocrity. The whole breastfeeding thing’s a manifestation of it: she believes she’s passing on matriarchal wisdom when she pumps that junk which, for the record, I pour straight down the drain. I prefer a single malt – it keeps me clear-headed.”

Interviewer: Won’t she be disappointed though?

“When isn’t she? Look, do you want me to wrap this up nice and neatly for your viewers at home? Give them my take on life?”

Interviewer: Please, do.

“Okay, here we go… in life, you need to play the hand you’re dealt. If you don’t like the dealer, switch tables and if you don’t like the odds, switch games. Then again…” she said coyly, throwing a piece of popcorn into the air and catching it in her mouth, “I’m just a kid, so what do I know?”

Stalk Options

“My stalker’s released more nude photos of me.”

“How’s your hair in them?”

“Fabulous. I’d just had it done.”

“Let’s have a look.”

Laverne slid her phone across the table.

“You owe him one,” I agreed, swiping through a considerable collection of images. “Maybe you should get him something.”

“Like what?”

“Halloween’s coming up.”

“What makes you think he’s into Halloween?”

“Call it a hunch.”

“But I wouldn’t know what to get him.”

“Does he have someone special in his life?”

“Not since he killed all the members of his church group, no.”

“Any hobbies?”

“Skulking among the shadows.”

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“I mean, besides that.”

“Photography, I suppose.”

“Then why not get him some lens wipes?”

“I’m sure we can do better than lens wipes,” Laverne frowned.

“Alright, let’s keep going then… would it be fair to describe him as outdoorsy?

“Yes! And now that I think of it, he could do with a decent winter coat,” she suddenly brightened.

“My neighbours are in a cult if you’re looking for something with a hood.”

“I’ll get back to you on that.”

“Did I mention it’s detachable?”

“It’s just… I don’t want to cause offence.”

“To someone who’s photographing you through your fence,” I felt obliged to remind her.

“I see where you’re coming from.”

“Didn’t he once write that on a CookieGram?”

“Right before I reversed over him in the driveway.”

“Putting all that to one side, what were you doing running naked through the forest at 3am?”

“The dog let the cat out again,” Laverne chuckled. “They’re worse than kids, those two. I should have gotten a fish tank instead. Anyway, enough about me; what’s new with you?”

“I’ve decided I want to give back to society.”

“Oh, God…”

“Now, I know what you’re thinking but this time I’m serious. I’m going to make these next twelve months my My Year of Philanthropy.”

“Well, you’re on your own then because no one’s getting any of my money,” Laverne sniffed.

“I don’t need money; what I need is a project.”

“Why not just join a gym like everyone else?”

“Because until just now I wasn’t aware that I needed to.”

“I’m just thinking back to the incident in the park.”

“That dog should have been leashed.”

“John, you wrestled it for a Tootsie Roll.”

“Which I’d bought.”

“Which you’d dropped.”

“In case you’ve forgotten, there’s a recession on,” I pointed out, dignity still intact.

“Okay. Forget I even mentioned it.”

“Easier said than done.”

“It doesn’t even matter because you’re nice on the inside and that’s what counts. When I was growing up there was a fat family on our street and they were really nice too.”

“Name them. All of them.”

“The dog was called Cupcake, I remember that much.”

“Keep going.”

“My point is, they were just like everyone else.”

“Just not worth knowing,” I addressed the elephant in the room.

“You have the rear molars of a hyena. I’ve watched you crush femurs like they were toothpicks.”

“That’s an exaggeration.”

“No, it isn’t. I’ve seen cleaner kills on Animal Planet.”

“Speaking of which, did you catch it on Monday? It was about these sharks that sleep. I think they were in Mexico. I have never, ever heard of sharks sleeping before.”

“That’s because they don’t,” I was informed.

“Sharks don’t sleep?”

“Nope.”

“Then what were these ones doing?”

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“During ratings week they whack a few in the head to make them appear cute and cuddly.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“I’m afraid not,” Laverne shook her head in dismay.

“But that’s barbaric.”

“So is seeing a camera-woman being bitten in half during a live feed. The only thing those sharks were sleeping off was a Grade 3 concussion.”

“Is that what happens on Love Island?”

“Totally different.”

“How so?”

“They’re all brain-damaged to begin with.”

“How do you know so much about concussed sharks?” I was curious.

“I was going to be a marine biologist but back then they didn’t allow women in the Marines.”

“Right…”