INTERVAL THREE: Pieces Off The Peg

Painting of seated woman in floral dress looking roght flor


Alex Steelsmith: Portrait Of A Lady

(Marie-Clotilde-Inès Moitessier posed
for a portrait by Jean-Auguste-Dominique
Ingres in 1844, when she was 23 years old.
Art historians note that Ingres, who was
known for works of extremely refined
craftsmanship, labored on the portrait
for 12 years, not completing it until 1856.)

Tickety tockety,
Madame Moitessier
waits for a portrait for
too many years,

yet she’s delighted when
Jean-Auguste-Dominique
finishes, seeing how
young she appears.

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Martin Parker: Reading Between the Lines

(Most people ignore most poetry because most
poetry ignores most people . Adrian Mitchell )

It is clear to the average reader
why the fan-base for poetry is sparse.
It is just because too many poets
make poetry a pain in the arse.

It’s a product, like cornflakes or Marmite,
Which needs to be packaged and sold
In a way that appeals to the market.
But poets will seldom be told

that too few of them write for the public.
and their work will remain on the shelves
till they all take their heads from their arses
and stop writing just for themselves.

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Martin Elster: Stripe-Tease

(A zebra foal photographed in Kenya with
a polka-dotted skin rather than black and
white stripes has a rare genetic mutation.)

Tira’s a horse of a different colour–
dark-coated and white polka-dotted.
Don’t tell the dam her offspring’s duller
than she is, or you may get swatted

by her tough striped and tasselled tail!
Though he has pseudo-melanism,
the other zebras will not fail
in love or issue criticism.

The woes he’ll face are biting flies,
which get confused when nearing bars,
but leopards, lacking compound eyes,
might think, “This oddity’s from Mars!”

Let’s hope he’ll thrive, a frisky foal,
within his op-art herd, play, munch,
and, thanks to its protective role,
avoid becoming lion-lunch.

Let’s hope, as well, that little Tira
will never chance upon a mirra!

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Henry Greenspan: New Thinking on Twinking

“Like many people, Purrington
believed Twinkies are basically
immortal, although the official
shelf life is 45 days. He removed
a Twinkie from the box, unwrapped
it – it looked fine – and took a
bite. Then he retched.”
          – National Public Radio, USA

Turns out that even a Twinkie
is not as immune as we’d thinky.
In this age of infection
there may be no confection
that cannot catch a cold
or be subject to mould
or degrade into something
quite stinky.

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Jerome Betts: The Expert

"Pigeon Lectures"
          - Advertisement Heading

We give you now Professor Quist
The well-known Escapologist
Who chats with cultivated charm
On Foraging by Field and Farm
And cropping cabbages and kale
As well as barley not yet ale.

Learn how to laugh at lurking guns
And tell real birds from rubber ones;
Puff out your pigeon chests with pride
At spotting yet another hide;
Brush up on ways to foil the skill
Of evil men who wish you ill!

Although the lecturer is late
We hope you find him worth the wait . . .
Alas, alas, please rise and doff,
The talk is now completely off –
Our guest’s fate warns us not to fly
Where peregrines patrol the sky.

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Michael R. Burch: Less Heroic Couplets: Funding Fundamentals

“I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could
 not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble.”  – Mark Twain

Making sense from nonsense is quite sensible! Suppose
you’re running low on moolah, need some cash to paint your toes . . .
Just invent a new religion; claim it saves lost souls from hell;
have the converts write you cheques; take major debit cards as well;
take MasterCard and Visa and good-as-gold Amex;
hell, lend and charge them interest, whether payday loan or flex.
Thus out of perfect nonsense, glittery ores of this great mine,
you’ll earn an easy living and your toes will truly shine!

Rooks roosting in leafless tree December

Max Gutmann: Sergeant Popple’s Song

Sergeant William Popple, a British soldier on his
way to India, shopping at a stationery store in
Dublin in 1870 seized a saleswoman's cufflink and
fled – 5 years later Popple, unable to recall the
store, visited every stationery shop in Dublin until
the cufflink was recognized by a saleswoman – whom
Sergeant Popple promptly proposed to and married.
                                      – Ripley's Believe It Or Not

Beg your pardon, I hate
to intrude on you, Miss,
But perhaps you remember
a cufflink like this;
It belongs to a girl
I was too shy to kiss,
But that is the girl I must marry–ay,
That is the girl I must marry.

For I thought of that girl
as I toiled for the crown,
Selling paper and pens
here in old Dublin town,
And my heart stayed right here,
though I crossed the world roun',
For a soldier can't stay stationary–no,
A soldier can't be stationery.

And I search for that lassie
with eyes like the sun,
A complexion of ivory
and hair golden-spun,
With a heart that is pure
and one sleeve that's undone.
I've been searching since last February–ay,
I've been searching since last February!

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Hank Greenspan: Lunar Lager

(NASA Spacecraft Finds Ice
On The Moon's Sunlit Side!)

No doubt there’re those who think it nice
that moon rock has a coat of ice
and craters there can chill one’s beer.

But as for me, much as I’d chase
a taproom at Tranquility Base,
I’d much prefer to chase one here.

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Susan Jarvis Bryant: Cross My Heart

“Freedom lies in being bold” – Robert Frost

You pull me up and rein me in
with mighty tight control.
You quash each ounce of jig and bounce
in your made-to-mould-me role.

You pinch and cinch each errant inch
till wayward flesh is still;
my stance, you tame and then contain;
no chance of overspill.

You hook me in and hold me firm
and grip me till I yearn
to whip you off, ignite constraint
and watch bold bondage burn . . .

while I wallow in the bosom
of freedom as I dare
to flounce around the lounge unbound,
O Flaming Brassiere!

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Peggy Landsman: Ms. Honeychurch

(A comedy of the pre-Brexit and
pre-pandemic twenty-first century)

The year that she turns twenty-two,
She travels throughout the EU.
From Finland to France,
It’s a fun-filled romance –
When there isn’t a room, what a view!

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Ian Stuart: Zoo News

"Depressed Penguins Make Recovery".
                     – Newspaper headline

We’re fine now. Thanks for asking.
White chests and black tail coats,
we look like waiters in some posh hotel.
Three times a day we go through our routine –
the comedy walk-on in perfect sync –
then dive in one by one, and swim
to the ice floe
made out of cement
which never melts or grows.

They throw us chunks of frozen herring –
always the same but quite nutritious –
and laugh to see our antics.
Sometimes they clap their flippers in delight.
It is nice to be appreciated.

They’re very heedful of our welfare.
Even the herring
has a special tang to it these days.

Yet even now, some nights,
huddled with others on a concrete floor
I still hear great bergs crash together
see distant sky shimmer,
feel the ice
sharp under my claws.

No, honestly. We’re fine.

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Jerome Betts: Super Spreader Panic

“Marmite supplies hit by Covid-19
beer brewing slowdown . . .
                                 – Guardian

Marmite, toast-smeared pungent tar,
Good as costly caviar,
Say it’s only au revoir!

Some would miss your little jar
More than lack of beach and bar,
Flights abroad or trips by car.

Short supply will leave a scar
And risk thousands under par,
Covid’s cruellest cut by far!

Woman with toast and Marmite looking left