This poem was written by Eric Howard using words generated by Terry Wolverton through fevered writing. Comments by Eric on the process of writing the poem appear below.
They survive on pennies, pills, and rations
picked from bug-out bags in cities mortgaged
to war. They stockpile prosthetics, pretend
their dreams are not predictions, are lonely
around live friends. Like butterflies, their guns
cannot imagine that the galaxy
is destroying them from the inside out.
They squeeze giant shadows in pockets, eat
all those inopportune wants when lunch goes
elsewhere. I’m not the first to see them in
the lines of our palms. Every day reveals
examples: conflagrations, eclipses.
I don’t ever contact them but as one
who would laugh and play, believing that they
are hiding back in the third grade. Because
future nights will overswarm our chances,
nothing’s so essential as the ozone.
Dire paradox has been unleashed.
If I could survive its shakedown, I would
spend normal, wasted lives enough to buy
her kids one big enchanted country. That’s
the pathetic landscape of the poem,
a little challenge to the globe of fact.
But when intelligence destroys all love
and our eyes see nothing that isn’t shit,
our stories will need much more than layers
of destruction and loss. The Nobody
is wrapping his hands around the landscape.
All matter, all money won’t be enough.
Who but us will cast a spell and create?
Statement About the Process
Writing this poem was an enjoyable process of breaking up the provided texts in various ways in order to avoid reusing the words as they were used originally. (“Bug-out bag” is about the only term that appears in both the original prompt and the resulting poem.) I made copies of the original Word document that Terry provided and eliminated words by category, so that I ended up with a document labeled Nouns, another Verbs, another Modifiers, and so on. I also printed out an alphabetical list of all the words, printed them out, and separated them all with a knife, which generated a set of words much like refrigerator magnet word sets. One more round of winnowing gave me words that rhymed. While the resulting poem does not exploit rhymes, seeing the rhymes helped me write the poem. The time it took to cut out all the original words was worth it–the slow process of individually arraying each word on a desk helped me discover new relations among the words. While the original prompt contains more than 600 words, many are repeats (“and,” “he,” “her,” “of,” and so on), so I eliminated the repeats, which gave me a set of about 350 unique words. The poem is about 300 words, so it turns out that not many words in the prompt do not appear in the poem.
This poem was written by Terry Wolverton using words generated by Eric Howard through fevered writing.
Just the car radio punching weapons-
grade iambs at my no-account future.
That’s all we’ve got, now that evolution
has killed America. Revelations
and assassinations. The ants survive,
but soldiers and their devotees cannot
outrun the nightmares of six-pack sex
and aerobic ballet. Try as we might,
can’t drive away. Traffic prevents distance;
on the bench seats in this yellow smog, hours
float by like weights. Waxy muscles golden
with yesterday’s dry fire, we drown in dust.
Colonized by our machines, we cheer for
idiots, never-rhymers who would fly.