Bouba and Kiki from Issue 97
“In experiments, 98% of people selected the curvy shape as bouba,
and the jagged one as kiki.”
—“Bouba/Kiki Effect,” Wikipedia
They never got along. Bouba:
soft, relaxed, blobbing
onto Kiki’s side of the womb;
Kiki: bristling like a hedgehog.
Bouba: injured, but forgiving;
Kiki: brandishing a spiky grudge.
Bouba: fatty everybody mocked;
Kiki: explosion nobody came near.
“Classify countries as Bouba or Kiki,”
Dr. Tuckenroll commands in Poly Sci.
“Is your signature Bouba or Kiki?”
asks Ms Lungfish in Calligraphy.
Bouba’s blubber swamped Camp Woolly-
Worm’s canoe; Kiki’s spikes sank it.
“Counter Kiki with Bouba,
Bouba with Kiki,” counsels Master Wu.
Bouba likes everything. Kiki’s
standards soar so high, she’s blue-
blooded from lack of oxygen.
Dr. Y wants Bouba to express
her inner Kiki; he dies of glomerization.
Dr. Z wants Kiki to express
her inner Bouba; his corpse looks
like it ran afoul of a knife store.
Our Bouba who art in refried
beans and cheese nachos.
Our Kiki, who in Halloween candy
Marco Polo from Issue 80
The swimmers who halloo his name
honor the Khan’s Venetian friend, I assume
as I belt my son into his Safe T. Seal
life-vest. I guess they haven’t heard,
the great Marco was a great fraud
who never made it east of Baghdad.
“Good. Kids need heroes,” I think,
towing my boy across the pool.
A kid with a red-rash goatee and eyes
squinched shut grunts “Sorry,”
as he thwacks me, then sloshes forward
in (it seems) aquatic Blind Man’s Bluff.
“Marco!” he shouts. “Polo!” his friends
roar, dodging his lunges and gropes
as, yards away, the ocean’s glittering blue
heaves and humps toward Xanadu.
Diving, at dawn, with parrotfish and yellow
tangs, I felt myself part of the sea’s
great fellowship. Now I’m more alone
than It, who foghorns “Marco,” homing in
on a pink micro-suit, a khan’s ransom
of flesh he’s privileged to clutch wherever
his hands run aground. How can he know
that his course leads straight to me?
“Daddy!” my son shrills, “Shark attack!”
Great white adult, I chomp my snorkel,
slide my mask into place, and as I make
my shark-descent, allow myself one
glimpse of teenaged skin from my own
past that grows more distant as I sink,
and some lost kid calls—above the water,
or below?—“Marco, Marco….”
Pfeffernusse from Issue 76/77
I want to hoard the season’s last one
the way Mark Twain, suicidal in San Fran,
gripped his last dime so that he wouldn’t die
dead broke. But time turns cookies hard.
Their flavor wastes away. With every
hour, less pleasure waits. Still, I hesitate
while my tuna sandwich, which the pfeffernusse
would cap perfectly, churns through
my stomach like a ferry crossing the Rhine
to Switzerland. 1939. Otto the baker—
Jewish on his mother’s side—
has taken his friend Dieter’s advice.
His children wail. They’ll never see
their pals again. His wife, Greta, weeps
for their parents, who swear the Nazi
mishugas can’t last. Now, home
receding, Otto opens a box he packed
for their trip: pfeffernusse, two each
for Greta, both children, and him.
He will bake them, his little peppernuts,
in the new place, the U.S.A. These are the last,
though, from the Deutscheland he loved.
How good they taste, how soft and sweet,
with just a dash of clove, a touch of rue.