My kids call me “Shmoo,” not knowing the Shmoo

was my favorite childhood toy. They like the sound,

which rhymes with “Lew.” As invented by Al Capp,

the Shmoo was squat, blob-shaped, its expression

benign, its eagerness to please unqualified.


Look at it hungrily and it sacrificed itself,

tasting like chicken or steak according to

your preference—and thus destroyed the world

economy. I forget what happened next;

perhaps Li’l Abner saved us.


An actress and a novelist I knew both had

the same friend, married to an architect

whose name was the same as my real name.

(Architect, in fact, was my childhood ambition.)

The friend was Al Capp’s sister.


Coincidences like that give shape to this

indifferent universe, where we wander

lost, hungry, essentially alone,

searching each day for meaning or direction

or a kindly Shmoo to look after us.


(Drawing by Joseph Yeomans)







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