My preferred forms include the clerihew (four lines) and the “Mad Gardener’s Song” stanza (six lines)—so I’m not sure how I wrote this 93-line poem. I know where I wrote it: in an Ann Arbor café called Mighty Good. And I know when I wrote it: in the summer of 2011, over a series of Sunday afternoons. But as to how and why: who knows. Maybe because I deeply love rhyme and, more and more, feel that it works in the same way that metaphor works: requiring, as Aristotle wrote, “an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.” Or because I want the world, or at least the poetry world, to be louder. Or because I really would trade Ronald Reagan for Donald Fagen.
When I finished the poem, I happily shared it with a few friends—but I didn’t imagine that it would find a home in a print journal (due to its length and weirdness). So I want to thank Kevin Craft and everyone at Poetry Northwest for making space—twice, now!—for this curiosity. And of course I’m thrilled that Sherman Alexie selected it for BAP 2015. That’s an honor I wouldn’t trade for, well, don’t get me started…
Trades I Would Make
Ronald Reagan for Donald Fagen.
Tijuana for Madonna.
This vale of tears for ten good years.
This schmuck I picked up in Indonesia for a bucket of anesthesia.
An icicle for a bicycle.
My neighbor’s hollyhock trellis for Dock Ellis.
Jim (or Jimmy-o, if he’ll permit) DeMint for a bit of lint.
A pay-as-you-go princess (read: overpriced hotté) for an iced latte.
A booster seat for some rooster meat.
A year in jail for some kale.
A turtle (either box or leatherhead) for a feather bed.
Gehrig, Unitas, Chamberlain (a bunch of dead jocks) for lunch with Redd Foxx.
A cat named Frisky for a vat of whiskey.
The color red for a feller named Jed.
A crate of elastic for a second-rate spastic.
A “C’mon, Cody, that’s not very PC” shellacking for (and why not?) the Academy of American Poets’
The Jackie Gleason Diet for a little peace and quiet.
Someone who dislikes (unlike us) V for a Ficus Tree.
An acceptable level of risk for a bowl of lobster bisque. Read the full story »