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The Bad Poem

In Fiction on September 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm

hobo dinners on the half shell
asian girls in tupac tees
white guys with chink eyes
the cobble stones are paved with blood
from rats that hide
beneath the street

Wow, he said to himself. This poem means nothing. But he didn’t want to say that to his friend who wanted to be a writer, because his friend who wanted to be a writer had a history of violence, plus he had written a lot of bad poems himself. So he said, “Yeah man, it’s good. I like it.”

He and his friend who wanted to be a writer were in the tenement of his Brooklyn brownstone. His friend who wanted to be a writer stared at him deeply, almost into his soul, he thought, searching his eyeballs for bullshit. “Did you like it when I did the thing with the …”

He wondered what his friend who wanted to be a writer might be talking about, but since his friend who wanted to be a writer wasn’t going to finish the thought, he said, “Oh yeah, I liked that.”

“Really?” His friend who wanted to be a writer crossed his arms and smiled proudly, knowingly.

“Yeah man, I really like it.” He tried to give the bad poem back.

His friend who wanted to be a writer didn’t uncross his arms and became very serious, even ominous, and asked, “So you’ll publish it in your journal?”

Fuck, he thought. “Well … I mean,” he took a step back, “I dunno.”

His friend who wanted to be a writer threw an office chair at his head. He ducked. The office chair barely missed him. It crashed into the stairwell behind him. He caught a piece of broken railing as the stairs began to crumble from above. Dust fell upon his friend who wanted to be a writer as he swung for the head, but the next thing he knew he was flying into the brick wall beyond the stairwell. He coughed blood and ran up the stairs, but only made it half a flight before they collapsed, covering him in wood and dust and vagrant turds. Lines of poetry flowed through his head like piss dripping from the freshly exposed rafters.

His friend who wanted to be a writer laughed ominously and walked up to him through the dust. His friend who wanted to be a writer kicked him in the nuts and spat in his face. “What about now? Do you want to publish my poem now? Do you see how the cobblestones are in fact paved with blood? Do you see who is the rat? You are the rat. The blood is yours. I’m going to murder you and write a poem about it. It’s going to be the greatest poem ever. So, you know, don’t worry – your death won’t be for nothing. It will be a literary death. Scholars will write about you in like a hundred years, identifying you as the true source of my inspiration, the very thing that gave me my start, because after going to prison for murdering you I will write the great American novel epic poem book thing … you know what I mean. And also, aren’t I ominous right now?”

While his friend who wanted to be a writer ego-tripped on punch-drunk delusions of grandeur, he found a piece of wood with a nail in it. He pretended to listen to what his friend who wanted to be a writer was saying, which made it seem vaguely like they were just hanging out in a dive bar, as they often did. He inched the piece of wood with the nail in it toward him, beneath the rubble, so that his friend who wanted to be a writer couldn’t see. When his friend who wanted to be a writer leaned down to strangle him, he plunged the nail deep into his temple.

If he had written the scene, he would have imagined some kind of expression or something, but the truth was there was nothing of the sort – his friend who (once) wanted to be a writer simply ceased to inhabit his body, like someone turned the lights out in a Manhattan penthouse where the stairs would not have crumbled and people wrote high literature that would never be published by anyone. The body fell to the ground with a dull thud and he thought, wow, how disappointing – not because he was callous or anything, but because he really needed some material for a poem, and now he had to deal with this dead body. He wondered if there was a difference in the long run. He picked up the bad poem.

Reynard Seifert lives in Oakland, California. He is a DJ on Viva Radio. His work has appeared or is forthcoming on Pindeldyboz, Hobart, Pank, and Word Riot. He is the publisher of hahaclever dot com, and gives away music for books on his writer’s blog.

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