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The Chapbook
Poem: The Great Whiskee River


am in the midst of a Robitussin coma to suppress a particularly nasty cough, so my brain is a bit of a fog. I feel fairly useless -- I could stagger out of my duplex this frigid Omaha afternoon and try to get some work done, but what would be the use? The magic of Pseudoephederine has me feeling very nearly retarded, as though I might get on a bus and have a half-hour conversation with the bus driver about where he is going and how much it would cost, and still pay the wrong fare and end up going the wrong direction. I am searching for jobs just now, as I have been living off the scant amount of money I raised for my cowboy show (a donation from my father, bless him), and it's just too little. I put a call into the local daily newspaper to see if they are hiring -- I have a decade's experience as an editor and writer, including having been editor-in-chief of Omaha's alternative newsweekly, The Reader. Haven't heard back yet. I also signed again with the Kelly Temp agency, and I imagine they'll be able to throw a few jobs at me filing papers and whatnot. I don't much care at this point, as long as I can pay my bills. I have a dozen additional projects that will require my attention -- I might be producing a play this summer, and The Blue Barn Theatre will be producing two of my plays, Cruelties and Chelsea (From A to B and Back Again) in the fall, with a two week workshop at Doane College this summer. And there's my cowboy stuff. So I am plenty busy, and these projects keep me happy. Besides, if I get a job that demands too much attention, it will cut into time set aside for my current project, that of becoming the World's Worst Poet.

The pity of my brain fog is that I would really like to print up my chapbook today. I'm ridiculously proud of the thing, as my years as an editor have given me just enough design experience on Quark to allow me to create an elegant, illustrated little collection of poems. The illustrations are all clip art, thanks to a clip art web page, but they are all taken from old woodcuts and Victorian-era newspaper illustrations, and so don't look like the sort of tarted-up cartoons that usually pass for clip art. Instead, the cover of my chapbook has a very fine piece of pen-and-ink illustration, which you can see at the start of this story, showing a man in a fez (the fez has a tiny Turkish flag sticking out of it), waist deep in a blackened river in the middle of the night, watching in horror as a gray, ghostly figure with pointed features, a cleft chin, and a broad, upsweeping moustache dances in the air before him. It's a stunningly nice piece of illustration, and, while it does not exactly illustrate the poem "The Great Whiskee River" that has given my chapbook its title, the art has a wonderfully evocative feeling to it. Here, by the way, is my title poem:

The Great Whiskee River

I'm going, I'm going, I'm going,
To where the whiskee river is flowing.
I'll strip off me shirt and take down me britches
And dive right in to the amber colored riches
I'll swim to the center where I'll lie there afloat
And let the bitter rye flow right down me throat
And I'll ride on great currents of turbulent whiskee
And I'll ride the river out to the great bourbon sea
I'll swim there to the bottom and wait my happy death
For my lungs they fill with whiskee with each expelled breath.

The illustrations are necessary, by the way, because even though I have more than 20 poems on the chapbook's 20 pages, most of them are ridiculously short. And, anyway, I will be charging 5 dollars for each of the chapbooks, and so I might as well give people their money's worth. To give a sense of the sort of poetry collected in my chapbook (subtitled Drinking Songs, Doggerel, and Poems for Moral Instruction), two of the illstrations are of children being spanked, one is of a semi-open straight razor, and another shows a plump, naked woman relaxing on an art deco sofa, surrounded by curtains and Japanned furniture. One of my many unfortunate influences as a bad poet is Joseph Moncure March's The Wild Party, so there is a hint of Jazz-age decadence in everything I write.

In the meanwhile, I have found a handy reference page for Omaha poetry readings, and as soon as March begins I shall start trudging through the gray Omaha snow holding my little chapbook in my hand and terrifying the locals with rhymed couplets about fistfights, drunken debaucheries, and the unfortunate events that unfold when a giant kraken starts masturbating. In the meanwhile, I might try and consume enough of this cough syrup that my coma becomes literal, and I sleep away my illness.


(Note: The Ukulele King's chapbook is now available for download, absolutely free. Simply follow this link!)

© Max Sparber. Click for republication information.

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Posted by UkuleleKing at 11:56 a.m.

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