I’ve never been much of a poet. I thought I was, until I took a poetry class in college, taught by a Vietnam Vet who was never any less than 20 minutes late to class and realized, “Nope, I suck at this.” I have since burned/recycled every poem I have ever written. No need to thank me.
But after I finished the first draft of The Big Rewind, I woke up one morning with curious sentences bouncing around in my skull. I had been reading But Our Princess is in Another Castle, by B.J. Best, which restructured the way I was creating narrative as I functioned throughout the day. Even as I processed simple tasks, I was filtering them through winding, vivid poetics. And when I sat down to write, I would come back an hour later and have no recollection of constructing a sentence, a whole paragraph.
(It was fucking AWESOME.)
Where Best wrote about video games, I wrote about TV. I used television as an allegory for events and people in my life. They were prose poems, mostly about boys, mostly sad. But in them was a language that was so different from how I wrote anything else, which fascinated me. I wrote more, dividing them up into series — “Prime Time” “Saturday Morning Cartoons” and “After School Special.” I wrote about Jem and Pokemon, The Shield and Burn Notice. I wrote crush poems and heartbreak.
And then, one day, the words dried up. They haven’t come back since, sadly, and I was never able to finish the collection. But writing is meant to be shared, so here’s the first of several in the series, titled “Pay The Ferryman.” It’s inspired by House and I have absolutely no memory of writing it. Enjoy, won’t you?
Pay the Ferryman
Carve open my heart, doctor. Drain out all my blood; replace it with Keith Richards’, if it’s cheaper. Give me a pill that will block the stench of death and disinfectant. Give me a shot that will make me forget all the pain I’ve ever felt.
We play chess. Are their other patients, doctor, who hurt like I do? You, perhaps, but you aren’t hooked up to snakes and bags of venom. You can piss without a sour-faced nurse in Winnie the Pooh scrubs frowning at you like you’re doing it wrong. We don’t all have the luxuries of a doctor’s life.
I can tell by the lines around your eyes that you used to laugh in big loud hurrahs. Medicine is ugly, barbaric, you’ve survived this long by making it a puzzle. I don’t need a detective, doctor, I need a voodoo priest to cast out the demons. Would you believe demons wear fanny packs? It’s where they store tokens for the Ferryman.
Give me your two cents, doctor. Place pennies over my eyes. I don’t want to be in debt to anyone.