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Original Poem: "Untitled" with Commentary

Updated on February 14, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Writing poetry became my major composing activity circa 1962, and Mr. M. M. Sedam's creative writing class in 1963-64 deepened my interest.

Satan Approaching the Court of Chaos

Satan Approaching the Court of Chaos
Satan Approaching the Court of Chaos | Source

Introduction and Text of "Untitled"

I would venture a guess that most people nowadays hate poetry. But enough hang on that it still pops up here and there. It would be interesting to research the trajectory of poetry as it used to influence even politics to now in the 21st century—how only its bastardized cousin, dramatic propaganda, is about all that is left of it.


for Rodney and Lyn and all people who hate poetry

i put my shoes on my head
& go to town in the cracking rain
my foot is the sun
the moon at noon looks like a piano
played by a tornado
congress is a canoe
that peels potatoes to make stars
our wisdom is a duck's belly
that sees with its knees
when shakespeare shakes his fist
blue nails fall out of aristotle's nose
my elbow has bitten a frog
and three dogs jumped over the house
on their way to pick cotton
at the saw mill
my shoes are ball point pens
i pick my teeth with
after dumping marshmallows along the potomac
four fat apes wrote their autobiographies
on the snout of a tire




Why would one even bother to formulate a commentary about a "poem" so obviously contrived to mock the oblivious? Why not? They don’t care, either way. Get the chip off your shoulder and just hang with it, enjoy the chaos of postmodern thought. Keep this in mind: one thought leads to another, and on and on. Until sometimes we end up in a surprising place. Still it is not without merit to attempt to think, instead of merely feeling, perusing, and moving on without intention.

First Movement: about to blow

The speaker has discovered that putting his shoes on his head before heading into town has provoked an unusual occurrence. When he puts those shoes on his head and goes to town, the rain cracks.

You know that rain might splatter, but who has ever heard it "crack"? Well, put your shoes on your head and head into town, and you might find "cracking rain" — especially if you can see the "moon at noon," which will "look like a piano / played by a tornado." Keep in mind, this is not a dream in a poem. This is the poem straight up.

A piano played by a tornado will remind readers/listeners of a rhythm and blues artist. Thus the square is circled or the circle squared, depending up on your orientation. (Unfortunately, the hater of poetry has just met his match. This poem is not so ditzy as it first seemed, but then they never are. Just ask "Ern Malley.")

Second Movement: drama is comedy in a jumpsuit

Now the speaker makes a truly dramatic statement. Some entity called "congress" does something that no one has ever considered, "peel[ing] potatoes to make stars." Say what? One peels potatoes to make mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, french fries—any dish with potatoes used to require the "peeling of potatoes" — now not so much, since folks have learned that much of the vitaminalized nutrition is in the freaking skin.

But what is this congress? At this point, what difference does it make? Congress means the coming together for some purpose, and the purpose here is peeling potatoes to make stars. This is such a radical idea that peeling potatoes can make stars that the novice, idiot, hater, or beginning poetry reader will only be enthralled. The more bizarre the claim stated in a "poem" the better, right?

You must remember that those haters, idiots, and beginners all believe in one doctrine, a poem can mean anything you want it to mean. And the result of this notion: most folks believe poem are meaningless jbberish that only a teacher can explain. By extension, algebra can become meaningless if only a teacher can explain it. History can become meaningless if only a teacher can explain it. Teachers explain meaningless stuff: "God! I can’t wait to graduate and never see a teacher again!"

Third Movement: anaphylactic stock

The third movement of this poem surely encapsulates the summary of wisdom of the pants lowering, anysexualityisok, bangandbebanged, explode the sexual revolution 60s mind set that has begun lifting entire peoples out of possibility for all those decades we have encountered from the 1960s.

Although it no doubt started centuries earlier, and probably existed from the beginning of time, the flummox of the "duck’s belly" has grossed out the spiritual, inspirited the degraded, convexed the thoughtful, and boosted the ego of the merely self-engorged. We all just venture on despite such.

What choice do we have? No one can understand everything, every minute of every day. Only those who wish to label you "evil" will even consider such a bizarre phenomenon.

Just think of it: what if all you can understand comes through seeing with your knees. What would you do next?

Fourth Movement: a bard for all thyme

The allusion to Shakespeare and Aristotle in the fourth movement elevates the poem to a new level. All the while the haters, idiots, and oblivious have sought solace knowing that they can see whatever they want to see in this poem, but now they are in deep trouble: they don’t have a clue how to figure out what Shakespeare and Aristotle have to do with anything.

They have heard their names, but the day the teacher talked about them, they just tuned out or were absent, or were in rebellion against Western culture. No one can argue against being against Western culture. Everyone knows how that thing has played out — wink, wink!

Fifth Movement: thinking below the knees

Oh, for God’s sake: whose elbow has not bitten frog? And if you have not encountered three dogs jumping over a house on their way to pick cotton at the saw mill, you have not lived. All one can say is get a life, and life will open for you. Fairy tales do not exist for fairies; they exist for all those who cannot believe in fairies. Show the world you have a brain, a heart, and a foot and learn about these things, before it is too late.

Sixth Movement: cavities and crowns

The speaker of this poem becomes a little whimsical when he claims that he picks his teeth with a ballpoint pen. Trying to be funny? On the other hand, have you not seen executives whose teeth look a little inky? Think about it. Life is all around you; how much of it have you missed simply on your way to the hockey game?

Seventh Movement: the hot chocolate scandal

The ink-teeth fellow then "dumped marshmallows along the potomac," while "four fat apes wrote their autobiographies / on the snout of a tire."

Everyone knows that fat apes can only write their life stories on the snouts of tires. Go out right now and look at your tires and see: they are there, I tell you, that’s where they are.

A Candid Crit of the Postmod Poem

© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes


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