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Reminiscent of William McGonagall at his Best

by John Grant

I have delved deep into the heart of my own fundament, the darkest chamber at the very core of my being, the place whence all my ideas and utterances come, the heartland of my internal sensitivity, and confronted my most intimate soul. I have decided, dear readers, to become a poet.

The exact moment of this cerebral transition came during a recent telephone conversation with my good friend Dave Knuckle, widely known to law enforcement agencies worldwide as the man who's not so much a bit near the knuckle as actually at it. "Alan," he said to me, for we are on first-name terms, "have you ever noticed how poets (of either sex) pull all the most delicious and willing babes?"

"Hm?" I said, ever interested in intellectual discussion of matters literary. "Really?"

No sooner had I put the phone down than I did the bit about confronting my soul, and realized at once where my true destiny lay. It made me sorrowful to consider all those wasted years during which I had stifled the voice of my own astral spirit, the handsprings of my lyrical perception. I gazed about me at the tattered remnants of my former life, the many thwarted attempts to say I Am I! to the world, the dead-end streets of expression. Whither my half-undone pornographic space opera? Whither my unofficial biography of Leonardo de Caprio, cessated halfway down the first page for shortage of any further interesting material? And whither my anthology of 25,953 desperate e-mails to AOL's helpline each answered by a computer-generated message telling me my difficulties were all my own fault?

Poetry! Ah, yes, poetry!

With quill in hand, I sat myself at the table and set about composing what I believed would be the first stanza on the back of an old Kentucky Fried Chicken box.

As any poet will tell you, inspiration does not come easy, and it was several hours before I was able to look upon the fruits of my labors:

There was a young woman called Spears

Who looked good if you'd had a few beers.

She performed on the telly

With bosom and belly

While the "Mute" button spared people's ears.

Not exactly Tennyson in his pomp, I felt, and so I resolved to go the following morning to my local branch of Barnes & Noble — the self-proclaimed Temple of Literary Kulture — to pick up a few vols of out-of-copyright stuff I could safely plagiarize.

Dawn was not the only thing that came up like thunder the next day, for reasons not unconnected with the contents of the box upon which I'd inscribed my first stuttering attempt at poetasty. I felt the act was symbolic, allegorical, as if my involuntary and indeed excruciating corporeal cleansing signified a spiritual purification, a psychical rebirth akin to . . .

My reverie was interrupted by my landlord hammering on the wall and telling me for Chrissake to keep the noise down.

Thus did Coleridge feel when, as he was calling into luminescence the fragile flower of "Kubla Khan", the infamous Man From Porlock called to ask if he could spare a few blasts from his stash. Sigh.

It struck me that I wouldn't be the first great poet to die romantically of consumption.

By about noon I could walk without frequent pauses for that archetypal Gothic facial expression known as the panicked wince, so off on my sojourn to Barnes & Noble it was time to go. I had dreams of buying a few fastidiously slim volumes of poetry there — dreams that were shattered as I looked ruefully at my credit card and then, blinking, realized it wasn't there because it'd been impounded six weeks ago. Instead I would have to shoplift as usual.

My shoplifting expedition proved, on arrival at the store, to be a whit more difficult than anticipated. For half an hour or so I visually rummaged through countless tables piled high with the latest literary offerings from the US publishing industry — titles like The Britney Spears Microwave Cookbook, The John Wayne Book of Etiquette and Decorum, Britney Spears on God, Christina Aguilera's Great Ten-Day Butt Workout Program, The Britney Spears Guide to Collecting Beanie Babies, Pat Robertson's Vivisection for Fun and Profit, The Britney Spears Pop-Out Book, George W. Bush's 1001 Best Off-Color Party Jokes, Britney Spears's "A Brief History of Time", Sir Michael Jagger's Book of Furniture from Fruit, The National Geographic Book of Rosie O'Donnell, Sarah Michelle Gellar: My Life and Times, and Laurell K. Hamilton's new fantasy novel A Caress of Greenbacks (with Foreward [sic] by Britney Spears) — but nary a lyrical verse could I find amongst all this profusion of fine letters.


"I'm looking," I said in a pale and languid voice to the operative behind the computer, "for the poetry section."

"'Poetry'?" he said. "Hm, that's a hard one. You gotta give me some clues here. Something to do with Osama Bin-Laden, would that be?"

"I do not think so, my fine fellow," I responded expansively. "Think of Coleridge . . ."


". . . Shakespeare . . ."

"Military history?"

". . . Shelley . . ."


". . . Dickinson . . ."


". . . Wordsworth . . ."

"We gotta a copy of Literary Market Place somewhere, but it's not for sale."

". . . Frost . . ."


". . . oh, Jesus."

"Now him I've heard of, buddy!" said the customer- service guy with not so much a beam as a two-by-four of triumph. "The lingerie department is on the second floor."

Still puzzled, I left this individual and quested further sans guidance.

Two hours later I emerged from the store somewhat dazed, clutching a copy of this week's issue of the TV Guide for Alaska, and trying to console myself with the thought that at least . . . but no, it had Ms Spears on the cover.

Back home in my apartment I settled down for supper and then thought better of it, turning instead once more to my trusty goose-quill and this time, with a shudder born of gaping memory, to the margins of my fretfully purloined TV Guide, those being the only scraps of blank paper I could find except from the back of my expert reader's report from Inside Sessions, which I'm trying to keep nice so I can submit it to a haiku contest one day.

I began:

There was a young fellow called Bush,

Who'd learned to talk out of his

. . . and that was as far as I got, not just because I couldn't think of a rhyme but because my eye had been attracted to a new television program I'd not heard of before:

The Al-Quaida Show
Each week, immediately subsequent to a further embarrassing disclosure about security lapses, every mom's favorite Johnny Ashcroft will terrify the nation by announcing the arrest of a fresh Al-Quaida suspect who, despite being a 17-year-old unable to spell his own name, masterminded a sophisticated plot intended to terrify the nation. Cameo appearance by Jennifer Lopez.

I glanced at my watch. The show was on in five minutes!

Hm. I wonder how I can get copies of my poetry to J-Lo . . .

The End