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  • Writer's pictureTerence Culleton

On the Lighter Side . . .

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

From time to time something happening in the world or in the media hits my funny bone in exactly the right place, and I'm moved to commentary, usually accompanied in a culminating sort of way by a very silly poem, most frequently a limerick. Some are short and to the point, some are quite long-winded. Feel free to skip either sort, depending on your mood.

1. Contagion Chic

I’ve always cheerfully adapted to the style dictates of any decade I’ve rafted through, whether it was

bell bottoms in the sixties (and Nehru jackets!) or, in the seventies, granny glasses and mutton chops. In the eighties I slept in pin-striped pajamas, and in the nineties I wore horned-rim banker frames to look like I was a baller in derivatives. And let me tell you about the aughts . . . well, maybe not. I think you get my gist. In the 2020’s one new style element I’ve noticed rapidly gaining in popularity is the surgical face mask. I like it! I saw an old woman at the supermarket today with one on, and I was surprised by how it set off her eyes, which looked worn and worried, yes, but were still pretty striking. As temperatures rise and all sorts of cataclysmic events release famine and plague across the planet, I suspect masks will become even more popular. I look forward to seeing the new designs that are bound to emerge as late-stage capitalism continues to hum along to its own music. Paisley masks? Emoji masks? Masks with the entire periodic table printed on them? Will tattoo artists turn to masks as new venues for their dragons, death-griffons, and vaguely White-Nationalist-looking post-apocalyptic hill-ogres? Who knows?

In any case, I thought I’d write a limerick about how much I like masks.

Here it is.


It’s coming . . .

Contagion Chic

A mask is a cool thing to wear.

It lends a mysterious air.

When you’re out on the street,

The people you meet

See only your eyes and your hair.

2. 'Splainin'

Being a man and all, man-splainin' comes pretty naturally to me, and I must admit I enjoy it. You might even say I have an innate talent for it. It’s especially fun on social media because, well, everybody’s ’splainin’ and it’s just this wonderful kind of free for all, and you don't even have to listen to everybody else or say "Yeah" or "Uh-huh" or any of that crap. I mean, nobody can see you since you're on your computer, you know? All by yourself. No party to go to. Again. You can even make childish faces, flip 'em the bird, moon the hell out of your computer screen.

None of which, of course, I would ever, ever do. I mean, I'm just sayin', that's all.

Anyway, on social media everybody’s voice is just as loud as everybody else’s, especially if you use all caps and a lot of emojis and gifs, so guess what? Even women are ’splainin’! And that’s a good thing because women sure have a helluva a lot of splainin’ they can do, especially about the male ego, the male need to dominate the discourse, the male need to always be right, etc., etc.

I especially enjoy man ‘splainin’ when women do it because when they do it “man” is not a modifier, but the object of the verb. So I really learn a lot about myself, and it might be improving my personality even, although I doubt it, since that would be an especially tall order and all. My personality is what it is, and, I admit, that’s a shame, but, hey, like so what can you do?

There is one little thing I did do to try and improve. I wrote a limerick telling all men everywhere--okay, really just me--to stop man-splainin all the time and relax and listen to somebody else for once in your life.

I guess you could say I’m man-splainin' to myself.

If that’s not too weird . . .

Don't Be A ’Splain In The Neck!

If like me you just can't constrain Your need all the time to man-splain Take a chill pill or two. Kick back with your crew. Just shut up, dude, stay in your lane!

3. Oliver's Dilemma

If you happen to be a fan—and who isn’t?—of the eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, and essayist Oliver Goldsmith, you’ll be happy to know he’s alive and well and living the dream in Bala Cynwyd just outside of Philadelphia. He doesn’t have a Facebook page because, well, eighteenth century Irish writers don’t use Facebook, you silly, but he does have a computer, on which all day he plays computer Solitaire, devoting countless hours to it, especially when he is constipated. Mind you, Oliver won’t ever admit he’s constipated and will, in fact, deny it to your face, even though the atmosphere in his gaming den tells the whole story. It’s an eighteenth-century thing, I guess: for decorum’s sake, deny the obvious or civilization as we know it will collapse.

At any rate, Oliver emailed me the other day in a kind of bemused dither over a message that kept flashing on the lower right side of his Klondike game-screen in the click-bait zone urging him to try an all-natural concoction that, the message claims, is a sure cure for constipation. Of course, Oliver didn’t want to let on how perplexed he was by the possibility of his computer’s knowing about his . . . um . . . you know . . . blockage or anything . . . because . . . um . . . well . . . it doesn't exist and all now, does it?

Instead, he . . . well, why don’t I just let you read his email yourself?

Here it is.

"During the weeks and months of my life in quarantine, I have found to my great surprise that the more hours I spend playing at Solitaire on my computer the more frequently I receive messages through my gaming application offering, at the effort of a mere click, good and reliable cures for constipation. My gratification in this instance derives not from my being, in fact, in the throes of any species of intestinal occlusion, but, rather, from the inferential evidence these helpful messages provide as to my computer’s unusually literate and, dare I say, polyglot intellectual disposition. This is especially as may pertain to its algorithms, which seem to have been informed, oddly enough, by history, if not by that less forgiving framework and guide to which men are commonly wont to refer as Decorum, properly understood. For, as everyone knows, in sixteenth century France it was widely believed that, in the case that one might indeed be suffering, as it were, from a congestion of the bowels, on the chance that one adopted a steady regimen at the Solitaire table for a prolonged interval of contiguous hours—even, in stubborn cases, days—eventually one’s penetralia would be obliged to yield to the internal pressures Nature has rightfully ordained as properly attendant upon the healthful eliminatory processes of the body. In point of fact, the name of this engaging game was derived from, and is indeed a Francophone corruption of, the English phrase “solid air,” which refers, perhaps facetiously, to the unproductive irruptive events that to this day often accompany a stymied man’s efforts at visceral purgation. It is not within the scope of this meditation, perhaps, to establish according to any sort of rigorous protocol whether anyone among the Frankish race at that time had evinced sufficient inclination by way of inquiry into the question of whether or not doing anything for fifteen hours straight while constipated—or, for that matter, fifteen days—would likely be at some point punctuated by an unclenching, as it were, of the perianal sphincter, assuming, of course, one continued the while to compliment one’s alimentary system with foodstuffs.

The cure my computer regularly offers me—assuming, it seems, that I am indeed a constipated sixteenth century Frenchman whose system has not yet succumbed to the cleansing effects of a simple card game—is a concoction consisting solely of two raw eggs swirled gently in a glass and consumed in one sustained distension of the muscles of the throat. This cure, I would venture to propose, has the spurious attraction, not only of being likely in all events to relieve the symptom to which it is recommended as being applied, but, in fact and indeed, to result in its opposite condition, which would be a most incommodious outcome for an unsuspecting voyager upon the variable seas of medical treatment as it was conceived and pursued in that unfortunate century and even more unfortunate country. Indeed, I have wondered if such an imbibement might not result in too excessive a relaxation of a subject’s suppressive reflexes, and, what’s worse, repeatedly so, with, perhaps, noisy and noisome expressions of the various intestinal gasses. Not being in need, of course, of any sort of curative measure with regard to my own intestinal fortitude, I have not been tempted to try a resolution that figures to be quite worse than the condition in question, were it indeed, as I say, in my case, in question at all or to any degree.

Does this not seem, my friend, a worthy occasion for a limerick? Were you to proffer one upon the topic, I would anticipate it as only an Irishman of heightened experience and breeding can possibly incline himself in light of so very much a trinket of lowland spriteliness—the way, in fact, old Gerontion might extend his ear horn to the chancest songbird in the wood."

How could I say no to that, right? So I wrote a limerick lickety-split and shot it back to him and he loved it. He even urged me to put it on Facebook, although he had no idea what that was, the silly.

Here it is:

The French Solution

Are your innards stopped up? This idea Is more than some strange panacea: Raw eggs in a cup, Stir twice and drink up! Voila! Now you’ve got diarrhea!

4. Reading philosophy during the pandemic can make you less anxious and angry about everything and more (you guessed it) philosophical. When you read Plato one cave canem (Who can find the pun?) is that you might find yourself disappearing straight out of your material self, which is cozy enough, and into something more insubstantial and, well, kind of chilly and all. However, the ideal realm of self doesn’t smell as much, which can be counted as a good thing. It’s more attractive too, as opposed to what you know you’re looking at when you look in the mirror. Anyway, I thought I’d write a poem about it before I disappear altogether.

Keeping It (Un)Real

The more philosophy I read The less concrete I feel—indeed, The less concrete I am—in fact, I’ve grown increasingly abstract! And that’s increasingly the way I’d like to be, let be what may. I’ve come to think I’d rather be Ideal than real: the best damned me I’ll never be, being the dope I’ll always be, and past all hope— Although there’s hope the dope I seem Has been a kind of shadow-dream, For thinkers think that the ideal Is really real, and real’s unreal, And all the things we think we see Are only there putatively. The concrete world’s a strange enclave, A kind of shadow-puppet cave, Where what we see’s illusion, so True things we have to come to know About—because, see, they’re not things But concepts by all reckonings And so ideal, both true and sweet, “Essential” vis-à-vis “concrete” (With all the connotative weight Thinkers incline to assignate To “things”— like weight! And sound! And feel! Smell, too—Ugh! If it smells it’s real!) Ideal is like an effervescence Fizzing up from real: real’s essence, Hardly bound to Place or Time, A bright and shining Paradigm Plato called God.—Be that as may, What may be’s better anyway Than boring old reality. Who needs real, really? Who? Not me!

5. Your Soul Will Be Eaten By Darnaladhtarumahpa!

On an obscure website on the dark web named true.anon, I read recently of a little-known and never-seen Tibetan sect, the Darnaladhtarumahpists, who after years of ritualistic training and specialized meditation regimens develop all sorts of arcane and logic-defying skills, including both the ability to laugh out of their ears while breathing in through their eyes and, even weirder, the ability to talk simultaneously out of both sides of their mouths. When engaged in this latter practice, being dualists and all, they have to say diametrically opposed things. So, while the left side of their mouth is saying something like, “Love is the music of the universe,” the right side says, “Your soul will be eaten by Darnaladhtarumahpa The Evil Rat King.”

Regarding this latter, an inherited feature among the cult’s shamans is beady eyes, and one of their sacred functions is to provide safe harbor to all rats who enter their huts, feeding them and even petting them. Kissing them. They get pretty mushy about it. Over time they come to look and act like rats, the shamans, eating vast quantities of moldy cheese and dumpster garbage as public displays of spiritual perfection. As for initiates, each member has to have his hair bleached and colored a shade of yellow that calls to mind either tannin-ized urine or insecticide, depending on which quadrant of the sky the sun happens to be in.

Anyway, yester eve, as I was watching The Glorious Leader--claw-hands akimbo, beady eyes sliding from side to side--squeaking and skittering verbally around the obvious implications of that Atlantic story, something struck me. I mean, there he was with his acid yellow hair and his little rodent-ish front teeth, explaining how the U.S. war machine was motivated by one thing, and one thing only—evil capitalist profiteering—and suggesting that the generals and admirals and all those military brass he despises so thoroughly—because, well, they’re tough, and focused, and brave—were in fact agents of the U.S. Running Dog Capitalist War Industry.

I thought: “What? He’s a Marxist?—a Maoist even?”

I was flabbergasted.

You know?

Like, just the other day he’d been desperately trying to paint his democratic opponent and all democrats as socialists, and fulminating against China and Chinese Communism and all. And for years he’d derided Obama about where he was born, implying he was an Islamist Extremist and that's why he wanted to get out of Iraq. Meanwhile bragging that he himself was Mr. Tough Guy Law And Order and Mr. Stock Market and Mr. I Love The Banks.

Mr. I Hate Extremists Let’s Bomb ‘Em Back To The Stone Ages!

Mr. I Love War.

Now all of a sudden he was a Marxist!

Now all of a sudden he was a Maoist!

An Antiwar Movement guy, what?

Is he also an Islamist Extremist? I wondered.

Then it hit me—bang!—like a bolt of lightning, like a bullet right between the eyes: he’s neither a Capitalist nor a Marxist NOR a Maoist—NOR an Islamist Extremist! He’s a Darnaladhtarumahpist! He can speak out of both sides of his mouth!

Imagine that! Our very own Glorious Leader a Darnaladhtarumahpist shaman!

I mean, look at his hair, even! How cool is that?

I just had to write a limerick about it.


After ten years mis-libeling Obam-y As a terrorist—now Trump’s a Commie? “War’s just profiteering,” He sniffs, snidely sneering. —So THAT’S why he dodged Viet Nam.

6. Artful Dodger

On the occasion of Our Glorious Leader’s petulant disparagement of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who gave, and give, their lives in the service of their country as “losers” and “suckers”—along with, per some reports, an “-ers” word that rhymes with one commonly applied to people who drive trucks for a living—well, I just had to write a limerick. I turn to the Irish Muse precisely because the pique driving Donny Silver Spoon’s diction on that rainy day in France seems to have been enhanced by his concern for his disinfectant-yellow locks, lest they be discombobulated by the rain.

Perhaps, too, he was inspired by nostalgia for the good old days when he could use a thousand bucks or so of his daddy’s money to purchase a cockamamie bone spurs diagnosis in order to avoid being a sucker to the Viet Nam cause that so many of his less “well-heeled” compeers lost their lives in. I should restrain myself, I know, but, well, the Irish Muse is a sharp-tongued task-master— she will remark upon these things.


He’ll swear by the hair on his head It’s dumb to respect the war dead. “They’re losers and suckers And dumb motherf@#$ers,” Our draft-dodging President said.

7. Time To Go

Our poor forlorn Glorious Leader has never much relished being president—except for the fun it affords by way of bossing everybody around, banning things, issuing executive orders, and rigging the Justice Department (at last!). But those meetings? With their damned reports and their pros and cons, their charts and graphs, and all that?

Ugghh! No fun.

Of course, he does like watching TV all day and seeing himself on the news.

Oh, and late at night he likes tweeting, which to him feels like playing Whack-a-Mole and always winning!

But he can tweet and watch TV and such anywhere—and you can’t play golf on the White House lawn!

(By the way, in his golf togs doesn’t he look like a Disney hippo waddling his bulk from tee to fairway, and fairway to, well, another part of the fairway, and from there into the rough or some out-of-the-way sand trap, chopping out of it, he hopes, inch by inch . . . Waddle, waddle, swing! Waddle, waddle, swing!)

No, alas, poor Donnie doesn’t really like being president. It’s too much work, and you have to think too much and, well, thinking hurts. And . . . and . . . everybody calls him a liar when he lies, which is no fun.

Why, then, is Dundering Donnie even running for another term? Why is he threatening to contest a fair election? Why might he even be planning a coup if he loses?

Well . . . didn’t that NYT article about his taxes on Sunday clarify that little conundrum? I mean, Armani Donnie did a stupid thing, didn't he? Once upon a time, long long ago, he personally guaranteed hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of loans for his business interests and guess when they’re coming due? Right smack dab in the middle of what he hopes will be, what he desperately needs to be, his second term in office.

And guess how much money Mr. Moneybags has squirreled away to pay off those loans? Right again! Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.

Gee, maybe he shouldn’t have paid out that shut-up money to Stormy Daniels, eh? Might have made a little bit of a dent in his, um, arrears.

So if Donnie Doldrums is not in fact in office at that particular juncture in the time-space continuum, guess where he’s going to be?

That’s right. Another and very different federally subsidized place of residence, this one with iron bars across the windows!

Oh no!

I just had to make a limerick about it!

Never Leave The White House!

The White House’s unhappy resident Won’t leave—indeed, he’s quite hesitant! If he does he’ll be hit With much legal sh***t! That’s why he still wants to be president.

8. Santa-mental Journey

Who says Trump’s the central-plus-only impresario of Fake News or whatever? Or, like, him and, well, Fox and Friends and all. And Tucker and Sean . . . and but so every single Press Secretary the current White House has ever shuffled out there.

Yah, and the whole New York Post. And, okay, so Rush Limbaugh, too.

Uh-huh. . . . Who? Oh, yeah, Kellyanne.

‘Scuse me? Rudy? Yeah, Rudy and all, but he’s a joke.

Anyway, the so-called liberal media does its own share of Fake-A-Roni, too.

So, look at last week, did you hear all those liberals reporting about how their little elfin darling Fauci—so THEY said—went all the way up to the North Pole with his doctor bag and all, and his stethoscope around his neck as if he was a real doctor because he is? And how he vaccinated Santa so he could deliver the toys and all and the little children wouldn’t have to go without their Christmas morning thrill-time?

I mean, did you hear that one? That was a doozy.

I mean, who believes that?

Anyway, so well the thing is, when word got out about Fauci and all to Q-Anon and the Proud Boys and The White Men’s United Secessionist Army (aka The Fat Boys), well, let me tell you, that was some poop-storm they threw, I mean death threats and decapitation videos on YouTube, whatever, the whole nine yards.

And not just against Fauci, you feelin’ me? Against Santa too! I mean, huh? And, like, I also mean Whaa?

Santa Claus Public Enemy #1, they’re sayin’? And a pedophile and all?

So you know what I said when I heard all about that stuff?

Gotta write a limerick.

Santa-Mental Journey

Trump’s base are pissy and grouchy

Their nemesis Anthony Fauci

Flew out of Atlanta

To vaccinate Santa,

Who doesn’t like needles—Aaaaah! — Ouchie!

9. Quaffing With Elves

Word on the street has it Santa’s Polish. His name, they say, was originally Nicholas Kowalczyk and later, when he became a “thing” and saintly and all, he was known as Santa Kowalczyk and then somehow that became Santa Claus. This was all before his transmogrification into an elf—which I understand why because, well, anyway, hey, it helps to be an elf if you’re going to be eternally alive and driven through the sky on an annual basis by an unnecessary magical team of reindeer in a sled filled with tons of hammered-together toys. Still, I think it’s a shame he had to give up his Polish citizenship just to be Santa Claus and I’m starting a Go-Fund-Me campaign to get him declared an honorary Polish Elf by the Polish government, whatever it’s called. My invisible therapist--whom, by the way, I keep on retainer-- insists I’m doing this because I am afraid of growing up. He says I'm obsessed with the whole thing because when I was a kid I always believed in the concrete referentiality of the designation "North Pole." I always thought there was a pole there, he says, which I admit is true, and it was even true when I was in my thirties and forties and, well, even beyond that. Now, though, I realize there was a pole there, it was just a different kind of pole. Santa’s worker-elves agree--with me and my therapist--and, you know what? They’re serious partiers. I mean, never, ever sit down to drink with one of Santa’s elves. They can’t die, so but like think about it: they can drink as much as they want. Breakfast lunch and dinner, man. You should see the empties curbside on trash night.

Anyway, I wrote a limerick about a drunken elf.

There once was a sneaky old elf Who took a wine jug off the shelf. He guzzled and sang Till the morning bell rang Then he threw up all over himself.

10. To Sir Richard Head

Last week we learned that The Glorious Leader (AKA Sir Richard Head), while safely ensconced out of harm’s way in the West Wing, followed his minions’ insurrection against democracy with a kind of la-di-dah hilarity mixed with need-the-bathroom schoolboy excitement, his only regret about it all being their “look.”

Reportedly, between a hee and a haw, Sir Head expressed some passing regret that his hench-people looked, well, “low class.”

Indeed! Bad optics, that!

One imagines TGL’s preference would have been for heart-landers in tailored Armani suits with perhaps the sort of black calfskin gloves he favors by way of invoking Darth Vader. Given that a sizable proportion of these base traitors were, like him, old obese white men with snowflake-thin hair and beady rodent eyes, perhaps he’d also have preferred that they’d dyed what few strands remained upon their liver-spotted domes bright orange—just like him!

Why not, you know?

I mean, narcissism never lets you down.

In celebration of The Glorious Leader’s eternally impeccable fashion sense I’ve . . . well, you know . . . written a . . .

Limerick to Sir Richard Head

He doesn't like thugs who are low-class.

He prefers thugs who have no class.

Like Cruzio or Josh,

Or Rudy, by gosh—

His boys from the ole quid pro quo class.

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