(Writing wretched verse so you don’t have to since 1995)
Hobo Chant, LaFayette, Louisiana, 1937
dem coals inside your chest
dem coals is hot and white
you gotta change your mackacheese
if you wanna be ma wife
dem fancy names for grief, cher
don’t come round here no more (no more)
dem mourning robes you won’ wear
won’ fit in ma chiffarobe
“On behalf of all Bad Poets, I would like to formally accept the Nobel Prize for Literature. I do so with a sense of humility. Really, when you’re writing this Badly it’s almost religious. It’s like God takes you by shoulders and says, ‘Listen up, cher. I realize you’re an upper-middle-class Caucasian Jew from suburban Northern California with almost no concept of what true material deprivation might be like, but I want you to write as if you were a poverty stricken Negro haunting the ravaged hobo camps of Louisiana during the depths of the Depression. Don’t worry about seeming like a racist idiot. I am God and I have chosen you.’ Then I say, ‘Gee, God, are you sure? I haven’t really been writing poetry that long, and I’ve never taken a class, and I’m not really sure what versification is.’ But God is so, like, persistent! He just keeps saying, ‘Go for it, man! You’re totally awesome!’
So I would like to place God right at the top of my Thank You list. And I would like to thank Jesus Christ too, for having such a cool dad and for not getting all jealous of me on account of all the attention God lavished on me. I would also like to thank The Committee, obviously, and … actually, I must pause here, as I will throughout the remainder of my speech, so that you may gather yourself… okay, who else? Oh, Andre Vickers and Richie Glover and Tony Muton and all the other big black kids who scared the piss out of me at Ventura Elementary School, where I first began to grow my massive man soul. I’d also like to thank Phillip Levine for writing They Feed They Lion, which I read 197 times before writing my Nobel-Prize-Winning poem, and from whom I stole the essential conceit, along with my transcendent use of anaphora. Sadly, Levine, while he breached certain idiomatic levies, lacked the courage of a true minstrel.
Again, I pause. Again, you collect yourselves. I believe ushers would do best to distribute the Kleenex I thought to purchase with a portion of my proceeds for the Nobel Prize which I just won. The remainder will be devoted to an educational fund, The Mackacheese/Chiffarobe Legacy Project, which will fund more than a dozen full-time nubile and partially disrobed PhD candidates as they study this poem in an effort to establish whether or not it marks the pinnacle of human artistic achievement.
I realize how unnecessary this seems to most of you and ask, again (humbly) that you stop weeping. I am merely one Bad Poet, but I accept this award on behalf of all Bad Poets, we sworn enemies of the authentic, we fearless soldiers in the war on truth, we happily inebriated language barfers. Bottoms up, guys and dolls. Dem drinks be on me!”
Miss Kay Graham of Tecumseh, AL sends along this bad poem, along with two canisters of DDT, which I have taken to sipping at during my evening constitutionals.
The old warrior stands tall in the field.
His golden mane has turned to silver.
Life has been filled with battles to survive.
Lawnmowers, chemicals and heavy feet,
Constant foes working toward his demise.
But he has weathered every storm
And now has one last chance to spread his seed.
One last hard blow and he will scatter
Hundreds of seeds, like messengers
To the universe.
Many will be ignored and bare no fruit
But some will dance across the field
To once again carry the flaming torches,
In the battle of the weeds.
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