by Jacob M. Appel
An emu hatchling—since you ask—must rank Most high among the mix of contrabandThese fated pilgrims seek to sneak across Though we’ve had ducks and geese and swans galoreManuscripts, deeds of trust, aircraft designs Fraternal pins, wedding bands, sterling baby spoons And ragged dolls enough to tip the skiffIf we’d allowed them on. And that’s beyondOur usual yield: Countless sacks of clothes,And diapers, cloth and pulp, and hoards of food —Supplies for herds of displaced refugees— And what a thankless task to clear their eyes(Though Lethe’s waters often do the trick)These men who stash their billfolds in their socksDrunk fools concealing flasks and fifths of scotch Gun-toting smugglers armed with skag and coke And one damn clown who brought a fishing poleAnd had the nerve to cast for trout in Styx But nothing can compare with household pets:Folks feel entitled. They assert their “rights” Like they’re bargaining with Delta or JetBlueAnd claim they need emotional support—But anyway, this emu was the worst!You should have heard the poor bird fret and squawk While that old biddy clutched it to her breastAnd lullabies shivered from her tongueAbove the cries of obol-seeking roguesBound to the docks. It was too much, I say. And yet we had to pry that bird away.The effort took its toll I must admitRendering us softer than we knewFor soon a lifeless bride clambered aboardStill clad in satin whites and without speech Around her throat a locket of white goldThat opened on a photo of her love. We let her keep it. A rare concession. What would death be without a few exceptions?