Steve Almond’s Bad Poetry Corner #1: Kafka at the 50 Yard Line


Introducing Steve Almond’s Bad Poetry Corner, a new Rumpus column where Steve Almond highlights a wonderfully bad poem written by him, his younger self, or another bad poet. Enjoy.

Kafka At The 50 Yard Line (Shady Side)

Cockroach and quarterback
what a curious pair
One craves pork rinds, the other
flings pigskins into air

Cockroach and quarterback
To wed them, do we connive?
But think, now, think,
both scurry to survive

Cockroach and quarterback
offer magic free of gloat
In times of ruin, each
morphs into a goat

Cockroach and quarterback
have lost the game, spoiled the dip
starred in Mexican song
let cameras catch sweat’s drip

Cockroach and quarterback
wear shoulderpads and trusses
circle floors with friends
use antennae to shy from fusses

Cockroach and quarterback
If they could speak, what would they say?
“You’re not a bad bug”
“Hey, that was a nifty play”

Cockroach and quarterback
a match made in fancy’s heaven
where linebackers stay home
with surplus food from 7-11

It’s so hard to choose a favorite part of this poem, because it’s all so rich and so deep and at the same time so clever and playful. It’s like if you took Franz Kafka himself and pried his brain out and dumped in a bunch of guacamole and then said, “Kafka! Hey Kafka! Wake up! There’s a young man at the door. He says he’s written a poem about you. He says he’s captured the dialectic between alienation and the banality of evil. And get this: it rhymes! It fucking rhymes, Kafka. There’s a part about Mexican folk music and another part about the rituals of televised American football and yet more parts about snack food and the cumulative effect is transcendent. Seriously, Kafka. You’ve got to meet this – oh God, wait – did you just shit yourself, Kafka?”

In fact, it’s exactly like that.

The chances that I’d actually read any Kafka previous to composing this poem are extremely low. I should have been on my knees, praying to God for a legitimate soul, but I spent most Sundays camped out in the multi-purpose rooms of the nearby college watching NFL games. It was a joyless form of masturbation. I like to imagine that if the risen Christ had come upon me, festering upon those grubby couches, trying to forget who I was, he would have touched my forehead and whispered You’re not a bad bug.

Please, risen Christ, if you’re reading this up there in Fancy’s Heaven, and you did in fact swing by and try to save me, forgive me for not acknowledging you, for instead bellowing at Brent Musburger to shut the hell up and show me the replay of Jeff George getting his larynx crushed, then returning home and writing this poem. Pray for me.

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Steve Almond's most recent book, Against Football, was a New York Times bestseller for at least three seconds. More from this author →