A friend asked me what my most recently shared poem (I Shook It Clean in an Obvious Apocalypse) meant. I didn’t give a sufficient answer in the moment but upon reflection I have some thoughts. I figured I’d share them.
Everytime I write anything – a blog post, a poem, a sermon – it feels like a surprise. I wonder, “Will I ever do that again?” and then feel a kind of dread because I’m not so certain I will.
To combat this feeling and keep the creative juices flowing – what a strange cliché – I have an exercise:
I write a ten rhyming couplets (Ex: “Roses are red and violets are blue/My tummy is rumbly I might have the flu” – I just came up with that, pretty good? No? I agree. Art is hard). After I’ve written 20 lines I ask Alyssa to assign me a list of numbers 1-20 in a random order and then put the lines in whatever order she assigned me. I know it’s not a very artful way to get a rough draft but the fun comes in the editing.
So, I have this mess of a words (or as I call it: Rhyming Couplet Tossed Salad) and it stands before me like a hunk of marble and I begin chipping away. I’ve done this several times and have produced at least two poems that I’ve liked (…an Obvious Apocalypse, The Children’s Crusade). What I’ve noticed each time is that the scattered rhymes create an internal rhythm and there’s usually something lurking beneath the surface of those original lines.
With I Shook It Clean in an Obvious Apocalypse I think – and who can really say what the poem means? Maybe it’s garbage – the monster lurking beneath the surface is two-fold. One is a feeling that I think is familiar to many artists when they put something they’ve created out into the world: That our art defines us and it sucks and we suck because we made it. Not to be dramatic but…
When I finished my Etch A Sketch masterpiece
a landscape of black and white
the Devil whispered, It sure is pretty, but is it art?
So, I shook it clean in an obvious apocalypse and
The other thing I think the poem is about, and again I’m probably wrong, is that feeling of dread I was describing earlier. That I’ll never write another thing. See the final three lines, ending with the hard stop period: “there’s nothing left to condemn. But, / I’m still scared right now will end / and we’ll all forget.”
Also, one day I was playing with Atticus on an Etch A Sketch type toy and I drew a landscape in black and white then wiped it clean as one does when they’re finished drawing a picture on such a toy and thought about the world’s ending because I do.
Anyways isn’t “Etch a Sketch” and “Apocalypse” a delightful rhyme?
With all that in mind go ahead and read the poem again for your recommended daily dosage of Existentialism. Or, feel free to read some of my other poems: