One thing about visiting New York is the interesting conversations you have with very brief acquaintances. Today’s exercise in rhyme started out from one of them, and got distracted by the BIG signs in places that serve alcohol advising, among other things, that pregnant women should not drink alcohol, and ubiquitous illustrated instructions in the Heimlich manoeuvre. (After I’d done the first draft I realised that a wall poster in a Pain Quotidien showing how to eat a tartine was possibly meant as a parody of the mandatory Heimlich poster: I’m not alone in seeing a gleam of absurdity, even while recognising that lives may be saved by the posters.)
Sonnet No 5: Regulations
When young he drove a horse and carriage
in Central Park. They were good times,
long before the current barrage
of regulation. Now it’s a crime
to take a horse out into traffic.
Though he don’t claim they were seraphic
no one would have done that then
– the horse would suffer! They were men
who didn’t need to the law to tell ’em
right from wrong. Now everywhere
signs say Must Not, Should, No, Beware.
From Bowling Green to outer Pelham
each cafe, subway, park and lawn
will soon instruct us how to yawn.