Sonnet for a TSA SPOT Officer

Avram Grumer on Making Light sees the sinister Orwellian side of the new TSA program:

TSA officials will not reveal specific behaviors identified by the program -- called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique) -- that are considered indicators of possible terrorist intent.

But a central task is to recognize microfacial expressions -- a flash of feelings that in a fraction of a second reflects emotions such as fear, anger, surprise or contempt...

And I agree that there will always be false positives.

You've seen my flush, my irises dilating,
But did your training leave you unprepared
For passengers like me, heart palpitating,
Locked to your eyes, so tragically ensnared?
Unable to resist your polished mettle,
Your uniform, authority, oh yes!
And discipline, and... let my pulse rate settle;
I look away, but does that signal stress?

Encased in distant ice, no jokes allowed,
Your shoulders bear the fears of those who'd fly
In fragile tubes, souls cowed within a crowd.
Is there no human space where we could talk
And touch and share? No. Wait. Perhaps if I
Pretend to some discomfort as I walk...

A Christmas Legend

Once approaching Christmas, weary, wandering past the shop-fronts cheery,
Finding cherub choirs dreary, clichéd, trite, an awful bore,
I recalled a long forgotten legend of the sole begotten
Son of God rebelling, yelling at his Sire till he was sore.
Once he'd read the (now best-selling) compilation, he was sore;
Once he'd studied sacred lore.

Gentle Jesus mildly, meekly celebrated sabbath weekly,
Reading from the books that bleakly told his culture's callous core,
Knowing that overt omission of this odious tradition

Could be seen as sick sedition by the priests who kept the score.

So he studied, answering questions to the priests who kept the score;
Not one verse did he ignore.

Junior J, a child precocious, read the tales of his ferocious
Father's monstrous and atrocious acts of genocidal war,
Things His "light unto the nations" did in barbarous altercations
With their neighbors (and relations): "Kill them all. Don't spare the gore.
Kill the women and their children. Kill the people I deplore.
Keep some virgins, nothing more."

Then he read the Egypt story, how the mighty God of glory
Slew the firstborn heirs, ignoring anyone who daubed their door.
Why were innocents included? Was his Dad unjust, deluded?
Couldn't this creator carve up just the Egyptian chariot corps?
Why was death so misdirected? Many there had earned it more,
As described in ancient lore.

All inside J's brain was burning, all the tales he trusted turning
Into hateful, stomach churning travesties that made him roar,
Till old Joseph stopped him crying, said, "I knew your mum was lying
'Bout her virgin pregnancy, supposedly a holy spore.
'S'what I'd call a mythconception, like most tales from days of yore.
Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more."

J sat down, relieved but shattered. Nothing in those scriptures mattered.
Gold, myrrh, frankincense, they flattered; Joseph, though, had given more.
J could see a great ambition, fighting priestly opposition,
Preaching love despite tradition, for the outcast and the poor.
Wipe out organized religion. Value people, prince or whore.
All are human, nothing more.

Since that time interpretation, decoration and conflation
Made a human rebel's message into magic he'd abhor.
While you're busy present buying, hark those herald angels vying
For your faith in Jesus' dying, drumming up a Christmas War,
Where one faith alone is free to rule the yule and write the law.
Call that Christmas? What a bore!

Fairy dust and happy thoughts

Silent Night, Hallowed Night

He'd prayed about it long and hard; he knew
The voice, that still small voice of calm within,
So pure and so assured, so clearly true
That failure to obey must count as sin
Like leaving vile diseases free to grow
Or asking Satan's demons to come in.
As is in Heaven, soon to be below,
He'd bring the hallow back to Halloween,
Reclaiming silent streets from rats that go
About with shouts profane and screams obscene
Demanding tribute to their god of greed--
A feast of fleshly gluttony to glean.
He tiptoed out to start the cleansing deed
With ears well blocked, so not to hear them plead.

(Halloween is supposed to be a little scary, isn't it?)

Inherit the earth

A geek desires to tell you how he feels
and not content to air his fragile dreams
obscurely in third person, he reveals
them cloaked in allegorical extremes.
He writes from the perspective of a hack--
a journalist from twenty-fifty-two
who chronicles nerd heroes of way back
when physical appearance was what drew
more hearts: "The strange emergence of the nerds,
equipped with sci-fi trivia and math,
as models for the macho human herds
has steered mankind from war's destructive path.
 The world grew up when people learned to play
 and regular expressions saved the day.

Just words

If I could have my way with words
I'd lock them in my soundproof ward,
subject them to a hypno-beat,
deny them sleep.
I'd isolate them from their kin
and stress them till they'd only mean
the things I want,
and not the things you think you hear.

Cephalopod Awareness Day

I missed it (by Australian time). October 8th was International Cephalopod Awareness Day. Not having much time, I've collected some of the cephalopod poems I'd written for PhaWRONGula.

An Awdl Gywydd for Pharyngula: Firefly squid

Skin-deep creatures, rage the night,
Flaunt your brightness to excess;
Flashing features, star-like, proud,
Show the crowd your nightclub dress.

A Lehrerian tango for Pharyngula: More cephalopod art

Dim the lights for a tantric temptation;
Feel this rhythm of writhing elation;
Great Ones watch us askance as the night bids us dance
And the music demands the tentacle tango.

All alone in your tank, are you sighing?
Let me taste every tear that you're dyeing;
Feel the lure of my charms; leave your marks on my arms;
Come to me, and we'll trip the tentacle tango.

As I fondle each sensuous sucker
Is it out of the question to pucker?
Your rapturous grip makes each dance step a trip
When we dance, beak to cheek, the tentacle tango.

Though my friends say I'm wasting my life on
A wet bag with eight legs and a siphon,
Still I'm lost without trace in your tactile embrace
Every time we attempt the tentacle tango.

A limerick for Pharyngula: Cirrate octopus

They're luminous, leggy and lissome,
In diaphanous drag. Don't dismiss 'em.
You see, I'm a sucker
For 'podes when they pucker,
But I can't find the courage to kiss 'em.

And some double-dactyls:

Re: Pharyngula: "los diablos rojos"?

Tabloid Canadian
Libels the Humboldt with
Fishermen's tales,

Marking himself as a
First to be food when the
Old one prevails.

Re: Pharyngula: Cephalopod gnashers

Two-spot the octopus
Suckers his snacks with his
Tangly physique,

Munching his meals with a
Chitinous crab-opening
Muscle-bound beak.

Re: Pharyngula: God hates squid

Answers in Genesis
Claims that an octopus
Is not alive;

This is great news, 'cause their
Lore will allow undead
Squid-men to thrive.

Re: Pharyngula: Florid squid prose

Gigas (Dosidicus),
Migrating north from its
Home in the deep,

Causes reporters to
Paint purple prose while the
Old guy's asleep.

The Management Committee

Its members all have their own specialized roles;
They report and direct their divisions
While checking for external threats to their goals
And making reactive decisions.

Some archive significant outcomes and actions
(And trivia, flukes, noise and guesses)
To look for the patterns in business transactions
In hope of repeating successes.

They argue and quarrel; they bicker and fight,
But unite for their public display.
They rest all together for six hours a night
And then meet eighteen hours each day.


parts of me
take not me
make more me
parts of me
take excess me
make less me
parts of me
control me
sense me
invent a Me
beyond me
only it's me
it's only me
it's all me...
or was that meat?

Sonnet off the cuff

If I composed a sonnet off the cuff
I'd struggle for a subject at the start,
And by default I'd use reflexive stuff;
It fills the lines, y'know, but it ain't art.
I'd dedicate it to the one who asked
Me for this damned impromptu rhyming verse
And hidden in the subtext there'd be masked
An awkward mix of gratitude and curse.
This third quatrain is where the well would dry;
The blarney gone, the gift of gab deserted.
(Self-referential style would pall and die
In parenthetic comments I'd inserted.)
Don't be surprised if most of this sounds dumb
When pulling fourteen lines out of my bum.

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