It was hard not to notice that the poet’s shack had more books than space. The bed was sitting on stacks of literary quarterlies. The couch was made entirely of poetry anthologies. On the walls were shelves of self-published works. There was a wood-burning stove with photographs of various people spilling out onto the floor.
“Nice place”, I remarked.
“Well, if you insist, I will read you one of my poems”, The poet took an anthology from the couch. “Are you ready?”
I nodded unenthusiastically. He found the page he wanted. “This is from a series I did on philosophy:
Your attempts to be existential
are stupid and provincial
and your persistence
in justifying your own existence
by invoking Sartre
is putting the horse before the cartre
And, even though I respect Camus
I can’t see what he has to do with yus
If we discuss philosophy any more
there’s the door.
Because, if I hear “cogito ergo sum”
I’m leaving the rum…
I thought for a moment. “And, you want me to be honest?”, I asked. The poet nodded. “I think it’s doggerel”, I told him.
“So… you liked it?”
“It’s a bunch of couplets with cute misspellings meant to be funny. I’ve seen blander poetry in Reader’s Digest”
The poet looked at me earnestly, “And that’s why you like it?”
I was getting frustrated. “I’M NOT SAYING THAT I LI– sure, I loved it”
“Great!”, the poet brightened, “I’ve got plenty more. Wanna hear another?”
“It’s no trouble”, he said, grabbing a quarterly from under his bed.
“I’d really rather not–”
“Shh, you’ll miss it”, said the poet. Then, he read,
Jason fooled around on his wife
So she took each child’s life
He angrily yelled, “Come back here, Medea!”
And, she replied, “See ya!”
“And, someone published that?”, I asked.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Here’s another”, the poet exclaimed, grabbing another quarterly.
The poet cleared his throat:
As a swan, the Greek god Zeus
Gave Leda a goose
But Tyndareus was faster
So he fathered Castor
And, both guys are why
We have Gemini
“Do you have a phone?”, I blurted out.
“Did you like it?”
“Just wondering if you have a phone”
I took a deep breath, “Okay. Honestly, I’d rather be napping in molten lava than listen to your poetry. I’d rather eat a full length mirror than listen to another of your contrived rhymes. I’d rather give myself an enema with a fire extinguisher than hear another set of poorly spelled couplets. I’d rather be found dead in a puddle of my own urine, feces, sperm and drool than hear just one more poem by you”
The poet stared at me, blankly. He was quiet for a long time and I thought I might’ve hurt his feelings. “Okay, I’ll read you just ONE more”, he interjected.
“I can’t wait”, I replied.
He found the page he was looking for in a rather beaten and torn paperback and he cleared his throat:
H. G. Wells
found that writing about the future sells
But like a playwright from the ancient Greek
that future had to be bleak
I decided to try a different approach. “That was GREAT! It might even be GENIUS! I doubt there’s even a word to describe what you done here; but, if there was such a word, you’d misspell it and slap it into a couplet. Words fail me and I’m in Hell”
The poet thought for a moment. “So, you said ‘genius’?”
“I did… and I meant nearly every letter of that word”
“Now”, blushed the poet, “You’re just embarrassing me”
“I’m sorry”, I replied, “I get enthusiastic sometimes”
“And”, the poet remarked, “Concerning your being in Hell…”
“That’s coming very soon”. His words chilled me to the core… but at least they didn’t rhyme.