Bad Poetry

I used to joke that "open mike poetry night" were the four scariest words in the English language, but one night many years ago, I learned it's no joke. A friend had invited me to an OMPN at a local church hall, and as incredible as it seems now, I didn't run directly to the Peace Bridge and hurl my body into the cold, raging waters of the Niagara River. I went. I remember sitting in the church basement, holding a styrofoam cup of flat soda and trying to get comfortable. I'm not a fan of poetry in general and bad poetry in particular, but the people seemed sincere and even I had to admit their poems were mercifully brief. Then "she" took the podium. She opened up a worn notebook, adjusted her glasses, took a deep breath, and launched into "January" the single most heinous poem I've ever heard, read or seen. You might think I'm being dramatic, but trust me: this poem was a stinker. It hit every trite cliche, every worn turn of phrase, every dimestore psychological insight in the book. But even worse was the dull, affectless monotone she read in. As she droned on, I was afraid of falling asleep and dropping my soda. Or clawing my face off. Both were very real possibilities. Eventually she reached the end of "January" and the crowd applauded. "Finally!" I thought, looking around the room to see who the next reader might be. But no. She turned a page in that worn notebook, took another deep breath, and launched into "February". I don't think it's exaggeration to say my life flashed before my eyes.

Years later the Real Dream Cabaret was working on a Cabaret Hell show to be performed at the opening of the brand new Burchfield Penney Art Center. I wrote a very long, very deliberately bad poem for my Cabaret Hell act, and I had a couple of ringers in the audience to heckle me a few minutes in. Tonight when I was clearing out some computer files I found the first draft of that poem. Enjoy. Or don't.


Monday rolls in like a 1973 Ford Pinto
And rides like it hasn’t had a tuneup
Since before my soul turned inky black and began to reek
With the stench of conformity
With the stench of acceptance
With the stench of acquiescence

Or perhaps it’s the stench of off-brand instant coffee
Waiting for the boiling water that will finally justify its existence
A garishly labeled plastic jar of powder
Ground and pulverized like my inky black soul
Seeping through my fingers and onto the kitchen floor
For the dog to sniff before losing interest and walking away
To lick itself in places we think obscene

Monday drops by unannounced
And overstays its welcome
Puts muddy feet on the expensive upholstery of my dreams
Leaving a mark no Oxy-Clean will ever remove
And no Sham-Wow will ever dry
Monday feels like salt and vinegar potato chips on a fresh paper cut
Take your search for comfort to some other day
Lazy Sunday perhaps, or Industrious Thursday
You’ll find no comfort here
For Monday is a harsh mistress
Her steely gaze and icy grip promise little and deliver nothing
Monday tastes like desperation
Yet the lonely gorge themselves at her banquet table of despair
Then ask to be excused so they can purge in the restroom
And return for yet another course
It’s all you can eat, baby
But the tray of roasted garlic mashed potatoes
Is always

Monday is the teacher of hard truths
And we her unwilling pupils
It’s 8 a.m. and Monday comes roaring into town
Sounding like the mother of all snooze alarms
She’ll sell you another ten minutes
But you’ll only be ten minutes closer to losing your mind
Monday makes awkward banter on slow-moving elevators
And whispers tales of weekend conquest in the breakroom
Sexual or otherwise
And it’s almost always otherwise

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