TO MAKE MY COUNTRYMEN LOVE POETRY
I wrote a priceless poem, a poem so precious
Burglars broke into my house three times
A day looking for it, and bankers begged
Me to deposit it with them, and women
Clamored for it instead of a ring,
And mafiosi clung like ants to the armored
Car I hired, and my bodyguards
Mugged and strip-searched, but didn't torture me
For fear I'd change one syllable.
I wrote an incriminating poem, a poem
So damning of so many that death threats
Arrived each hour; that police and FBI
Searched my house and car and safe-
Deposit box, with warrants and without,
Whether or not I was there, and attorneys
Begged to defend me just for the publicity,
And everyone I've ever known offered me
Big bucks to cut where they appeared.
I wrote an atomic poem, a poem
So devastating that the government
Begged to store it in a silo for me;
That one reading cured cancer, though
Memorizing it caused leukemia;
That it saw through women's clothes; that traders
In contraband offered missiles armed
With warheads in exchange; that no one
Who remembered even one line could stop shaking.
I wrote a Top Secret poem, a poem
So classified that not even the CIA
Knew of it (they'd heard rumors)—
A poem the President lacked clearance to see.
Every woman I slept with was a spy.
I couldn't eat a bowl of Raisin Bran without
Chipping molars on some flake-size bug.
The world's future lay in my hands,
And people listened when I said, Don't startle me.
I wrote a narcotic poem, a poem
So addictive that a single word,
Cut with a hundred neutral letters, sold
For thousands on the street; that junkies died
Of overdoses every day—died smiling,
Died fulfilled; that cocaine, heroin, speed,
Reefer, LSD lost all value;
That no one who heard so much as a prose
Summary could ever get enough.
I wrote a prophetic poem, a poem
So accurate that reporters used it
As a source; that racetracks, lotto,
And all Nevada shut down; that elections
Were abolished—people just asked me
Who won. Religions sprang up around me.
People booked marriages, divorces,
Funerals years in advance; and no one
Lost a dime if they listened to me.
I wrote an extraterrestrial poem, a poem
So advanced and powerful that lovers paused
Mid-kiss to hear; that lifelong enemies
Dropped their weapons and embraced; that no one
Passed within a mile of the text without
Choking up; that people stopped burning
Coal and gas and oil and wood, and gathered
Near the poem, and rubbed their numb hands,
And opened first their jackets, then their hearts.
from Tulip Farms and Leper Colonies, published by Boa Editions, Ltd., © 2001 by Charles Harper Webb.