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Introduction
Poem: The Fate of Jimmy Jones

2003-02-25

write bad poetry. I have for years. It slips into almost everything I do, in fact, and, for the record, it is generally impossible to explain exactly what I do. On Sundays, as an example, I wake up at about 10 in the morning, wrap a bright red cowboy shirt and a gunbelt around my carcass, and spend the morning preparing to yodel at children. I do this in a persona so close to who I actually am that it hardly is worth the labor of being called an alter-ego: I perform as The Ukulele King of the Great Northwest. (And, yes, that cowboy in the illustration on the left is me.)

This entails doing some gun-spinning, singing some cowboys songs (accompanied by my own rather primitive ukulele strumming), reading self-penned short stories, and, as you might expect, reciting some awful poetry, often penned the previous night. I have performed three of these shows so far, and each weekend regaled the children with wretched little morality tales about misbehaving bantlings and the sorry fates that they earn, Strewwelpeter-style. As an example, here is the poem from this past Sunday:

The Fate of Jimmy Jones, a Boy Who Ran Away

Jimmy Jones had a temper, and everybody knew it
It you made Jimmy unhappy, oh, you would live to rue it
He would holler and stamp his feet if he couldn't get his way
And when he grew cross enough, well, Jimmy ran away
He wouldn't go very far, of course, just a block or sometimes two
But he'd pack up all his things -- his comics and kazoo --
And tie them in a bindle and then throw it in a sack
And then march like an angry hobo with his possessions on his back
He'd march past his weeping mother, and he'd smile to hear her cry
And then march past his poor father, as the man would dab his eye
And say, Jimmy, boy, don't do it! Jimmy, it's not right!
Where do you plan to go from here? How will you last the night!
And Jimmy would pause and puff his chest and say, father, it's your fault:
I'll sleep tonight on the cold earth beneath heaven's merciless vault.
It will be a cold night, and dangerous, indeed, dad,
I’ll battle wolves and maybe coyotes, a fight that's hard and bad
And if I make it to the morning I'll be a hungry and wretched lad
And this is all your fault, you know, because you went and made me mad.

Then Jimmy would step outside with his cap atop his head
And he'd nibble at his provisions: a slice of apple and some bread
And he'd walk across the street, and turn and face his home
And think cruel thoughts toward those inside, and then Jimmy, he would roam.
He'd walk down to the drugstore and would buy a sarsaparilla
And sip it as he read a comic about an ape man and gorilla
Both lived in darkest Africa in a tall and stately tree
And Jimmy would look at the oaks outside and think "That's the home for me!"
And he'd go outside and climb one and then marvel at the view
He could see his school on one block, and see further, another two
And at the end of these three blocks was a street he'd never seen
And so Jimmy climbed back down and poured his soda in his canteen
An he marched those three blocks, marched further than he ever had
He marched there, feet shod in tennies, his chest windbreaker clad
His pants were stained with mud now, his pants, cotton and plaid
He was dressed for an adventure, because somebody made him mad.

The third block had a patch of earth, and railroad tracks behind it
And Jimmy felt quite proud of himself that he had managed to find it
And he sat along the rails and he sipped his sarsaparilla
And he nibbled on some candies, both chocolate and vanilla
Then he heard a peculiar cough, gruff and lacking social graces
And he turned and saw two men there with tanned, unshaven faces
One said, "Is this a runaway, what have we got here?"
The other Looked Jimmy up and down, his face alarmingly near
He said, "He's brought along a bindle stick and his pants are caked with dirt,
And he's dressed for rotten weather -- look, there's a jacket over his shirt!
He's a hobo in the making, friend, and we're just the ones to make him;
And here comes our train now, friend, quickly, grab and take him!"
Jimmy Jones let out a cry of fear, but his parents were too far to hear
And if you want to know where he is now, well, let me tell you, dear,
If you listen to the railroad as it passes quickly by
From inside the railcars you can hear a mournful cry
It's Jimmy, don't you know it, he's older, yes, he grew
Up among the hobos, where he cooked them hobo stew
He added salt to their stale bread and he poured their cherry wine
And for twenty years he has done, this, always weeping, always crying
Saying, "What did I do to earn this? Was I selfish? Was I bad?
Why couldn't I have treated better my poor mother and poor dad?
And now I'm doomed to be a hobo cook, a poor fate for this lad!
Why did I ever run away?
I should never
Have gotten
So mad."

I must say that I am a bit ambivalent about performing for children. I don't actually like children very much -- I can tolerate them in short doses, but I inhabit a world of adults so thoroughly that children inevitably feel like weird little interlopers. Most of my awful poetry has been written with an adult audience in mind -- I tend towards drinking songs, limericks, and other unforgiveable doggerel. Indeed, sevreal years ago I published an online magazine called Doggerel, which consisted of particularly vile examples of verse.

Whatever becomes of my weekly cowboy show, I have decided that I wish to return to the world of adults. I compiled my favorite poems into a little chapbook this week that I have titled The Great Whiskee River, and it is my intentions to print up a few dozen copies this week and then begin to invade the world of poetry readings with samples of my fractured verse. And since I can't begin any project without likewise beginning a journal to document it, I have decided to start this online journal, so that others may follow what is likely to be a particularly ridiculous pilgrim's progress through the world of modern poetry.

Cheers!

© Max Sparber. Click for republication information.

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Posted by UkuleleKing at 1:07 a.m.

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