Mudville, 2358 (Casey at the Bat, With Aliens)

Mudville, 2358

The crowd at Mudville Field was full of hope that autumn day.

They’d come out by the thousands just to see their home team play.

Three billion of us watched remotely from our homes and bars

And just about a million from the colony on Mars.

Earth’s major league team managers had come up with a scheme

To trade their strongest players to create one perfect team.

When Mudville won that lottery they also won the chore

Of crushing Earth’s most bitter rivals from Tau Ceti Four.

Tau Ceti’s long-term strategy was not above reproach.

A team’s star player might be summoned by Tau Ceti’s coach,

Then suddenly announce that his career had run its course,

Retiring on an income from an unnamed foreign source.

Those who refused to quit would face some unexplained bad luck.

A broken arm, a broken leg, run over by a truck.

No one had ever proved that these misfortunes were foul play,

But after five or six most people thought it looked that way.

Earth hadn’t won a Series since the one in ‘thirty-two,

But this time it seemed possible the team might just pull through.

No one had thought they had a chance to make it past game five,

And here it was game seven, and the team was still alive.

A few Tau Ceti fans sat in the bleachers by third base

Out past the left field dolphin tank (a lush aquatic space).

The Earth team’s land-based fans were the majority, of course.

The humans and uplifted apes had all come out in force.

The snackbots tossed bananas, peanuts, cotton candy too.

Their throws were always graceful and their aim was always true.

The beer drones fluttered overhead, all chrome and gleaming brass.

They shot fluorescent liquids into every waiting glass.

By inning nine, Tau Ceti was ahead with five to three.

The Earth fans were about as tense as anyone could be.

Their only hope was Casey; of this one thing they were sure

His swing was strong and certain and they said his heart was pure.

But Casey couldn’t bat until four others had their turn.

Joe Flynn was first and you could almost see his stomach churn.

It might have been the pressure, or it might have been the stench

Emitted by the players perched upon Tau Ceti’s bench.

The pitcher’s eyestalks locked in place and focused one by one.

Her scales glowed green and purple in the bright midmorning sun.

Her tail spikes flicked from left to right, so sharp and black and straight.

Her talons grazed the ball as she propelled it towards the plate.

Poor Flynn just stared at her, the way a mouse looks at a cat.

He crouched inside the batter’s box and choked up on his bat.

He focused on the ball and swung; he gave it his best try.

Tau Ceti’s second baseman made quick work of his pop fly.

Up next was Thayer, who had never stood out from the rest.

He looked so grim and earnest as he faced his greatest test.

He passed with flying colors — hit it right out of the park.

The score was five to four and now the mood was much less dark.

Then Sato’s turn came up. It didn’t last for very long.

“Strike one, strike two, strike three” was Mister Sato’s sad swan song.

Hernandez feared she’d strike out, end the game, and fall from grace.

Instead she hit a triple and stood firmly at third base.

When Casey made his entrance, he was such a welcome sight.

The humans cheered; the dolphins jumped for joy and sheer delight.

The snackbots threw confetti, and the beer drones poured free booze.

With Casey batting for us, there was no way we could lose.

The first pitch came, the first pitch went, and Casey let it go.

The umpire called “strike one” and Casey shrugged and said “I know”.

The second pitch was like the first; the umpire called “strike two”

And Casey’s fans grew quiet as they willed him to pull through.

Now, Casey hadn’t worried once, not since the game began.

If you looked closely you might think he had a secret plan.

He paused for one brief moment and stood still and calm and tall.

And then he stepped up to the plate and waited for the ball.

Then Casey swung as strong and sure as only Casey could,

A swing that caused the game to end the way he knew it would.

And Casey smiled and Casey laughed as he threw down the bat

And left the field, defiant, with a flourish of his hat.

The fans sat in the stands, just staring with their mouths agape.

And though they all still try there is one fact they can’t escape.

The umpire called “strike three.” The call was good, without a doubt.

There is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has sold out.


This probably reminds you of Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer.

Valentine (2014)

Roses are red
Violets are blue
My library books
Are all overdue.

Roses are red
Violets are too
Rose-colored glasses
Are what I see through.

Roses are red
Goulash is stew
Have a nice meal
And don’t get the flu.

Roses are red
Some cheese is bleu
But not the kind
That’s good in fondue.

Roses are red
Kittens say “mew”
My cats are cuter
Than your kangaroo.

valentine_2014

Total Recall

I’ve had my car for a little over seven years, and I’m pretty happy with it despite the fact that I’ve gotten approximately three dozen recall notices during that time. It all started with a problem with unintended acceleration that resulted in a series of recalls: first they wanted to inspect and/or remove the floor mats. Then they wanted to replace the floor mats (because we shouldn’t be forced to drive with bare carpet under our feet, like savages). Finally, they wanted to cut off part of the accelerator pedal on the theory that if the pedal is tiny enough, then you’ll never step on it, and you’ll be really, really safe.

These lights have nothing to do with the recall, but I was impressed when they all lit up at once.
These lights have nothing to do with the recall, but I was impressed when they all lit up at once.

At some point they must have noticed that the more recall notices they sent out, the more business their service departments got — after all, if your car is due for maintenance and you get a recall notice in the mail, you’ll probably just get everything done at the dealership at once instead of going elsewhere for the oil change. So they kept sending more and more of them — and maybe it’s just my imagination, but the jargon seemed to get more confusing each time. The most recent one went something like this:

‘Twas brillig, and the spliny struts
Did gyre and gimble as it stormed:
All wobbly were the bolts and nuts,
And other parts deform’d.

Beware the insufficiently hardened intermediate steering extension shaft, my son
It bends like wire! It breaks like glass!
Beware the dread floor mats, and shun
The pedal meant for gas.

It goes on like this for a while, and from what I was able to decipher, it’s saying that at any moment the steering column may spontaneously disintegrate, leaving you clutching a disembodied steering wheel; the car will then spin out of control, resulting in a fiery crash and an untimely and painful death for anyone in or near your car.* Also, you should get those floor mats looked at again.** The repair should take about an hour.***

This sounded pretty serious, so I promptly took my car in for service after procrastinating for 3-4 months. The repair was pretty uneventful, but apparently the dealership has added a new amenity to its waiting room: complimentary medical advice. While I was there, a man in a white lab coat walked up to a pregnant couple and had a fairly lengthy conversation with them; this is the only time I’ve ever seen someone say “thank you, complete stranger off the street, for the extensive unsolicited advice regarding my pregnancy” without being sarcastic. Then he continued approaching people, seemingly at random, and giving each person medical advice (except for one woman who turned out to be a physician herself; she got career advice instead).

He never talked to me, despite the fact that I was obviously at serious risk of dying of old age waiting for my car to be ready. I was a little disappointed at the time, but at least I know that when I get the inevitable “Notice of Possibly Faulty Medical Advice Dispensed in Service Department Waiting Rooms” letter from Toyota, I’ll be able to safely ignore it.

*This may be a slight exaggeration.

**The recall notice didn’t actually mention the floor mats. But every time I take my car to the dealership, they want me to let them hack off chunks of my gas pedal, and I have to keep refusing over and over again.

***Hi again. I don’t really have anything to add; this paragraph just looked weird without a third footnote. Oh, hey, while you’re here, I have a question. Do you have any idea why I wrote “deform’d” instead of “deformed” in that poem? I mean, the apostrophe is totally unnecessary, right? And yet I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.

Rejected Submissions to NASA’s “Send a Haiku to Mars” Contest

NASA needs your help. They’re soliciting haiku poems to send on a future mission to Mars.

Two hundred million
miles from home. Did I forget
to turn off the stove?

I love the view but
hate this planet’s atmosphere.
Yelp rating: three stars.

I’ve a feeling we’re
not in Kansas anymore.
Stupid GPS.

It’s cold here on Mars
every day. So you’d have to
be crazy to stay.

But I think it’s worth
The distance from Earth, to see
the Martians at play.

NASA wants haiku.
Limericks are considered
inappropriate.

It seems fitting that
these poems for Martians were
written by Vogons.

A Christmas Poem

I have eaten
the cookies
that were on
the mantel

and which
you had probably
left there
for Santa

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so warm

I have read
the note
that was by
the cookies

and which
you had thoughtfully
written
for Santa

Forgive me
it was delightful
so sweet
and so warm.

I have burned
the note
that you left
for Santa

and which
would have proven that
there had
been cookies

Forgive me
it was glorious
so bright
and so warm

(with apologies to William Carlos Williams)