He sat on a low bench and waited for me every Friday morning. A big man, the strong and silent type, he was doing a four year bit. The other inmates were inside the room, laughing and having a good time. But Jon sat quietly. Outside the room was outside the building, and it was often cold. But Jon sat there, smoking and thinking. I often asked him what he was thinking about, but he never answered me.
My school principal was putting together a book called Prison Voices. He interviewed men and women from across Canada, but he wanted some strong selections from his own area, Vancouver. He pleaded with me to get some creative writing from my class.
“Hey, Jon, how about giving me some stuff for the book?”
“Not me, Ed, I ain’t no writer.”
“I think you’re playing with me, Jon. I know you can do it.”
“No, not me.”
“How about just a little something next week?”
“Okay, Ed. Just a little something.”
This is what he turned in the next week. It’s one of the strongest things I have ever read. It caused some consternation among the funding sources for the book, but the principal fought to keep it in the book. This is exactly the way he wrote it.
i’m through trying to emulate words
that have been coddled and sheltered from the world
by authors with silver egos and slicker tongues.
i want to swallow my pens and
vomit images upon the page;
to spank words
and send them red-bottomed from the room;
to forget the dry syntax,
the politically correct anal froth
that sounds more nazi than reform.
i want to abuse the english language
like finnigan’s wake did the irish;
like gutter quebecois did the french
i want words that smell sweet
as a half-naked thirty-something
in the back seat of a buick regal;
words that are wet with fear
smuggled in sweat soaked blue-jeans
torn at the knees after a hard nights thieving
words that suffocate in their cellophane wrappers
given away free in the candy stores of amerika,
breeding rebellion and inspiring the masses
of illiterate beggars who march through city streets
looking for scraps of food under padlocked dumpsters;
i want seventy-five dollar pens that write seventeen cent poems,
to be thrown away when the ink has bled dry.
i want words that offend;
words that rape priests
and send cheers through crowds of frightened children.
i want words that question;
words that linger in the backs of throats
like half-dissolved aspirin.
words that will duel anything ever written
at any time,
and won’t even break a sweat.
i want words that run salivating tongues along warm panty lines
in the bedrooms of lovers entangled in wet sheets
strangled in skin and salty sweat;
that embrace lovers with indecision and guilt
as they make that horrifically long walk to the altar
or that longer stretch back home
to their waiting spouse’s tapping foot
and wounded-dog cries
words that sound like cherry bombs
exploding in a pranksters hand;
like gas shells over hamilton,
i want to be the fallout in my own city,
my country and preferably washington, dc.
i want words that betray liars
while i lie paralysed on the beaches of france
or the deserts of morocco
crippled by scotch and heroin
cursing the sand
plagued by the piercing pitches of demons i’ve loosed
upon the eardrums of the world
i want to be the laugh in the poetics of robbins,
the innocence of lerner’s switchblade;
bathe the black indifference of vonnegut jr
with a voice and insolence all my own…
i want my words to bleed grape jelly.
i want real emotion.
What do you think of this poem?
P.S. Watch for my most popular book, Once a Priest to be 99 cents next Sunday