Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Fine Eye for Garbage

BYU has a student publication called Inscape. Students are encouraged to submit fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and/or art to a competition. The winners are published in Inscape and given some sort of cash prize. In 2001 I tried submitting poetry, fiction, and art. My submissions were all returned to me within weeks and without comment. In 2002 I tried again with fiction and poetry, to identical results. During this time I had acquired my own copies of the 2001 and 2002 editions of Inscape.[1] It was drivel, down to the last word. Disgusted, I made a single submission in 2003. Rather than carefully craft a poem with a message or even artistic merit, I spent several weeks writing down random phrases that occurred to me. Then I strung them together, more or less at random, into stanzas. I added a few lines which hinted at my opinion of their magazine and judges (as did the title I chose), then I submitted it. Unlike previous attempts, months went by before I heard back from them. I still didn't win, but this time I'd actually made it to the last round of judging before being eliminated. Well, the joke's on them. Here is the text of that poem, A Fine Eye for Garbage.

Did you see the flies that day
In the dreams of Saracens—
Nothing more than computer files
Left to freeze to death?

I left the ketchup on the table saw
By locking the backdoor of my brain,
Lost in convolutions of an earthly cult
While The Imperial March rings in my ears.

It twists and writhes in the grass
Like Annabelle Lee and me—
Descending to our miry graves
Where roses are a-bloomin’.

Birds on a wire breathe loud
Like my roommate at night
Or fiddlers in the forest
Having drunk too much tea.

Quislings for moral relativism,
A parody in disguise:
The plight of the Hispanic, the Navajo, the Hottentot
Or the foulest dreams of Pegasus
Like fairies from a broken home
For whom freedom is a crutch
While witches burn for infanticide
But not murderers of trees
Nor destroyers of the vital elements—
Because capital is our god.

There is death in the pot.

19__, that year of terrible darkness:
OSHA killed my dad,
Twins murdered on the streets of New York,
Laser surgery on my third eye,
Lives floundering in the fish-choked water.
But: there have not always been blue M+Ms!

Art forms that have been stale for 200 years:
Inescapable [2] dross—
Brainrot that is pleasing to the eye.

We live with a surfactant vagueness:
A mouthful of sawdust.
Crossing parallels are made possible
By alchemy in its prime—
Wormholes piercing my brain like needles.

The aurora is an augury:
Robes steeped in blood
And nefarious words of kindness
On this malicious orb.

From the land of buzzing wings,
I tear flesh with a cloven tongue—
No muses, just magnets
Shrouded by swarms of flies.[3]


[1] If you're curious, you can learn more (and read recent winning submissions) at

[2] When I originally submitted this I didn't italicize the letters for Inscape inside of "inescapable"—I didn't want to be too obvious.

[3] The last two lines refer to the trash sitting next to the refrigerator where I used poetry magnets to come up with some of the lines.


  1. I seem to recall this piece. Did you share it in the OBC?

    I suspect that the print industry generally is similar to BYU publications (the Daily Universe is a prime example).

  2. Yes, I did present this at one of our Book Club meetings.

  3. I recall this one. Shame they didn't take it. :-)

  4. Matthew Ben!!! This was absolutely awesome! I loved it! I'm probably going to copy and paste so I can keep it! Just so you know....