VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Walter Shulits

I NEVER META-POEM  

Someone please help me…I was in LA having my 

left testicle cryogenically frozen while walking on 

hot coals singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” 

on the second Thursday after a full moon,

the latest lactose-free remedy for erectile dysfunction—

when, I don’t know, it happened so fast… I was pounced 

upon, pummeled by Paris Review storm troopers sent by 

the High Priestess of Poetry(whoever she is) 

or it’s possible I simply fell into the rubbish bin of New 

Formalism(whatever that is) and am now being recycled, 

or maybe I bumped my head on the ceiling of cluttered 

comprehensability trying to read Wallace Stevens- 

but suddenly it was no longer clear  if I was metaphorically 

drinking urine rather than beer or you know what instead 

of hot chocolate but regardless and damn the redundancies, 

I’m scared shitless, peeing rhymes in my pants

and have absolutely no idea where I am: Is this a catechism 

class for lobotomized lyricists, a 12-step AIliterative Illiterates 

meeting or a convention of MFA’s who have never been 

published; strange but

I always thought MFA stood for Mo—-r Fu——g As——e but 

now I see that dual memberships are no big deal. Anyway, 

the Charles Manson, James Jones or TS Eliot of this little 

circus/circle/cult is an eloquent 

but definitely not elegant symphony conductor or MMA 

impresario type,part swan part peacock wearing turquoise 

granny glasses and matching mustard-colored slacks, 

socks and shoes, a man— 

it’s hellish how much he does relish every chance to embellish 

his own self-esteem— brandishing a venomous verbal cattle 

prod sadistically triggered every time he hears the word 

“narrative” or any adverb at all, 

his second in command an overly Red Bull-ed gospel 

diva lobbing literary self-help f-bombs to dumb down 

the discriminatory disconnect between her brilliance 

and her blackness, the preposition “like” her

laughing gas pellet gun against camouflaged class 

prejudice, then there’s the red-bearded vegan bartender, 

quite possibly an operative embedded by Mike Pence or 

Steve Mnuchin, face hidden beneath a tented baseball cap 

furtively staring through binocular-like tortoise shell specs at his 

top secret block-lettered quatrain scribblings—or maybe it’s just 

sudoku—never saying a word as he lewdly licks his lips, while 

beside him a mild-mannered, pink-cheeked, 

Rudolph-nosed Scottish academic with a rubbery ruby-lipped 

smile cemented or stupored onto his face labours through his 

hourly regimen of curling goblets of merlot— up down swallow 

breathe– possibly a futile effort to become as chiseled 

as the Michelangelo-tattooed Jamaican poet in a snake helmet 

yodeling Caribbean haikus through a conch shell; he picked 

poetry over bobsledding because it’s less “reggaelated” and 

he’s having a “Marleyvous” time flirting 

with Marian the Librarian, olive contact lenses, grey steel wool 

hair, army fatigues and black sneakers, her six pencils neatly 

aligned on the upper right edge of her notebook, a metronome 

to entreat her feet to stay on the beat, she’s obsessed with

writing the perfect dissonant dirge in double dactyl with Dewey 

Decimal declension, her life anal and banal but a bacchanal

compared with the guy the storm troopers have dragged 

gagged and straitjacketed in the corner, a babbling brain-dead 

surfer dude in his dotage who had the audacity to wear a “Metonymy 

Is My Enemy” t-shirt—he probably thought it was a dope name for a 

heavy metal band or a cancer-causing carbohydrate excommunicated 

from the Ketogenic Church— but what’s 

gonna happen to me: hanging, guillotine, the rack?  I’m being 

dragged across the floor, why didn’t I wear my Lakers jersey… 

instead of this “Only Pricks Hate Limericks” hoodie. They’re 

pulling my pants off, OMG my tattoo— “Villanelles Can Go To Hell…”

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