Yesterday I got to give a poetry reading with fabulous poet Chuck Rybak, who also teaches at UWGB. I wanted to print out his "Liketown" poem, but can't find my copy of Tongue and Groove in my office. Must be at home...
You can find this poem where it belongs, in the fine poetry journal, Paper Darts:
But here it is, again, in all of its glory:
Reports indicate a virulent bitch outbreak
at the daycare, code-red profanity scare.
The plague began in a clan of four-year-olds,
whose hot-zone words flew deadly-virus airborne,
jumping across the room
to six circular kids on their butts who chanted
Bitch-Bitch-Bitch like they were playing Duck-Duck-Goose.
Horrified come pick-up time,
we parents caught a whiff of bitch
and demanded our TinyTown spin
the sirens, bus in the hazmat crew,
their press conference of proof and containment:
We have scrubbed their little mouths with soap
and hosed them down from head to shoe.
We assure you, they will eat vegetables tonight.
Such epidemics take me back to high school
and the outbreak of bitches there that attacked
the student body, two thousand strong.
This Newtonian curse-word universe
saw bitches who could neither be created nor destroyed,
saw bitch actions have equal,
opposite bitch reactions
until every orbiting bitch was caught
in the bold gravity of exponential maternity:
“I’m not a bitch. Your momma’s a bitch.”
The science of that Babylon was all wrong.
My mother is not a bitch,
she is old-school divinity
who makes Moses look lazy.
A mystery, mother lived
immune from all bitchy
outbreaks—a walking, talking,
white blood cell
without the proper mouth to form
four letter words (or five,
when keeping bitch in mind).
She never spoke curse words
of any kind, not one
that I can recall. She merely
parted the Red Sea
of her family’s profanity, then marched
her matriarchal self away
from our frog-filled mouths,
our language scarfed with locusts,
marched into freedom, into lands
of linguistic milk and honey.
We children had no choice but to follow
through fields of gee whiz and golly,
through row upon row of awshucks
into orchards where we plucked whillikers
right from their weighty branches—
with full bellies we rejected
the unclean, cast them out
preaching I don’t give a hoot
because you’re a giant horse’s patoot.
But I am no such prophet.
I cinch my daughters in their seats,
their lips still wet with bitch,
drown them on the way home
in wave after wave of
Thou shalt not
Thou shalt not
All rights reserved to Chuck Rybak.