Oh, what a clever little git I was at the tender age of nineteen.
Here’s the deal: Circa 2004, I was attending community college and taking lots of Honors English courses. I was devouring volumes of literature and poetry, both for and outside of class curriculums. I had just begun composing poetry seriously, which in this instance means that I would dedicate a few hours each night to scribble drunkenly in those ridiculous little Moleskine journals.* Ninety-nine percent of the time, I couldn’t decipher what I had written the next morning and I certainly couldn’t remember what I had been trying to get across. I thought I was smarter than all of the other students (a debatable claim) and, furthermore, totally set apart from them, both by choice and by default.
I wanted to be just like all of those writers and artists and musicians I dug so much, and I thought this required a certain level of exile (self-imposed and otherwise). My peers didn’t understand me, but all these dead cats that I studied did: Dante, Poe, Shakespeare, et al were my pals, and I spent more time with them than my real-life friends. In fact, I developed a juvenile sense of jealousy about all those guys. Whenever somebody else would talk about one of them (as is likely to happen in, say, an English class), I would often grow indignant and offended: “How could you say that about Will Shakes?! You’re wrong! YOU’RE FUCKING OUT OF LINE, PROF!”
So I suppose that’s what led to the composition of this poem. I was protesting the invocation of these great, great minds by lesser men who couldn’t possibly understand them because only I understood them like they should be understood, understand?
I don’t understand it either, but I’m sure it made perfect sense in 2004.
*I was on a real Steinbeck kick and, supposedly, he was fond of those little ones that fit in your pocket. I’ve found them relatively useless for everything save writing down grocery lists and phone numbers, but that didn’t stop me then: I nearly developed carpal tunnel for the sake of being more like Steinbeck.
All Allusions Go To Ante-Purgatory
Real men don’t die–
They sit on shelves and ferment in frames
in the waiting room of eternity
waiting for their numbers to get pulled
for literary merit
or palleted pedantry.
Whores, every last one:
Pimped are the writers
and the artists
and the musicians.
Wagner sits next to Marx,
(who was a Jew, of course),
yet refuses to speak to Einstein,
who sits scratching his relatively relative mane,
muttering about momentum.
Hemingway offers Thoreau a drink,
(he delicately declines).
What’s your number?
Quite a wait,
waiting for evocation.
Fidgeting feet and twiddling thumbs,
longing to live again:
like you did when we were living.
Solace is out of the question,
even though Shakespeare wants to
(perchance to dream),
and poor Edgar wishes to be
And thus they wait:
to be blasphemed
but never beckoned
to rest in peace
They made their beds
and we can’t lie in them.